March 07, 2009

Team Obama: ‘The One’ was too tired for Brown

Why? The economic crisis, allegedly.

Funny. British PM Gordon Brown has plenty of economic crisis on his own plate and wasn’t too tired to want a full-blown press conference, which Obama refused to do with him.

Meanwhile, Washington whisperers, in the story, claim Obama and top insiders just have no interest in foreign policy.

Given the metastasis of the current economic situation around the globe, right now, economic policy IS foreign policy

Fourth time ultimate charm for Cedar Hill over D-ville

Didn't think to take my laptop to the Region I Class 5A final at Fort Worth earlier.

The Longhorns led just twice, at 2-0 to start the game and at 60-59 with 0.3 on the clock, but that was all they needed to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit and beat Duncanville. Late in the third quarter and into the fourth, the Panthers got away from the hot hand of Reger Dowell, who dropped at least one NBA-distance 3 earlier in the game.

On to Austin for the Longhorns!

A fact-free argument for the War on Drugs

Former “drug czar” John Walters argues against legalization without having one favorable word for Sweden or the Netherlands. All he can say is that they “backtracked” from their original stances on things like marijuana decriminalization or street methadone, without saying how far they backtracked. (They didn’t eliminate these stances, which is what he implies.)

Nor does he have stats on exactly why they nuanced their approach to drugs, etc. Nor does Walters compare the severity of prison sentences in the U.S. not just to the Netherlands and Sweden, but to about any country in western Europe.

Military chaplains don’t get First Amendment

Multiple military chaplains, in response to complaints that groups such as Campus Crusade for Christ are, in essence, infiltrating the military, say things such as, “We represent our own faith while respecting other faith groups .” per Carleton Birch of the Army’s Chief of Chaplains Office.

Uhh, atheists and agnostics aren’t a “faith group,” Mr. Birch. Try reading your First Amendment again. You obviously need to:
Mikey Weinstein, the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a retired Air Force officer who has become an outspoken advocate on the issue, said his group now received more than 500 complaints of religious bias a month from members of the military.

It’s approaching the discrimination level against gays in the military.

Having people told to pray to any God, whether the Christian version (whatever strain thereof) or some other one, violates that First Amendment.

Tim Geithner a clusterfuck for a decade

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating is SCATHING in his denouncing; Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s 1997-98 performance during the Asian monetary crisis, while he was at the International Monetary Fund, to show that. He says he and other IMF officials are the reason the economies of South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia tanked — or, to be precise, the IMF in linkage with private-sector investors — and NOT the governments of those countries.

It was so bad, Keating says, that’s why China still doesn’t trust the IMF a decade later, and why it’s hoarded so much money. He says it’s why renminbi conversion remains off the table.

How bad?
“Soeharto’s government (in Indonesia) delivered 21 years of 7 per cent compound growth. It takes a gigantic fool to mess that up. But the IMF messed it up. The end result was the biggest fall in GDP in the 20th century. That dubious distinction went to Indonesia. And, of course, Soeharto lost power.”

That’s how bad.

That all sheds more light on the new Wall Street Journal story on whom Geithner might be sheltering by refusing to name AIG bailout beneficiaries. In other words, Geithern has a decade’s worth of experience in sheltering private bad investors.

Fire Geithner movement gains steam

Henry Blogdett, comparing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to recent hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, says Geither is inflexible and mentally rigid, and that his years as NY Fed head give him no excuse.

Megan McArdle says it’s partially President Obama’s fault for not getting more Treasury hiring done.

Abroad, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating says we shouldn’t be surprised by Geithner; all we had to do was look at his 1997-98 performance during the Asian monetary crisis, while he was at the International Monetary Fund, to show that.

Echoing Blodgett, he says Geithner inflexibly applied old ideas to new problems — and did that after misdiagnosing the problem in the first place.

It was so bad, Keating says, that’s why China still doesn’t trust the IMF a decade later, and why it’s hoarded so much money.

That all sheds more light on the new Wall Street Journal story on whom Geithner might be sheltering by refusing to name AIG bailout beneficiaries.

Obama gets half-win indefinite detention battle

By having indicted suspected al-Qaeda agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri and moved his case to criminal court, the Obama Administration got the Supreme Court to not make a ruling on whether or not a president can indefinitely detain people.

The court did vacate a 2008 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Congress gave the president the power to indefinitely hold terrorism suspects under military guard, even if they were in the country legally.

Team Obama argued that with al-Marri moved to civilian court and indicted, the issues were “hypothetical.”

Obama also gets a political pass with the non-ruling.

Marri’s attorneys and the ACLU accept the half-loaf; what choice do they have?

But, the “hypothetical” argument continues a disturbing trend by Obama on civil liberties issues.

March 06, 2009

Franken loses one and wins one - what will Reid do?

Will Harry Reid follow up on the “win” side? The Minnesota Supreme Court made two big rulings in Al Franken’s half of the Franken-Norm Coleman Senate seat wrangling in Minnesota.

The state Supremes said they won’t certify his election until the legal process is done.

But they then explicitly said the U.S. Senate can seat Franken without such a certification.

(Politico says the answer to the “does Reid have cojones?” question is a definite no, at least right now.)

Meanwhile, the justices continued to ding Coleman’s legal team.

Bernanke-Geither CYAed for Euros as well as Goldman with AIG

The Wall Street Journal has at least halfway opened the bag as to who’s the ultimate beneficiary of them refusing to disclose who benefits, ultimately, from the ever-ongoing AIG bailout.

Yep, Goldman Sachs is up there at the top.

As is Deutsche Bank, French bank Société Générale SA, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC Holdings, among others.

That earthquake you just heard?

It’s the pre-cratering of European stock exchanges.

Why all the Euro banks are involved is that AIG floated them money to let them lower their margins on mortgages and other investments, through a variety of swaps.

In other words, some of the American financial alphabet soup, such as CDSs, is washing away at the shores of European finance, too.

Again, that earthquake you just heard?

Krugman is too charitable to Geithner-Summers

On TARP 2.0, or whatever the hell you want to call it, on deeply and honestly addressing the problems of toxic financial institutions, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and economic butthole surfer czar Larry Summers aren’t “dithering,” as Paul Krugman says.

No, far worse.

They’re deliberately stalling.

“Dithering” implies they have a plan, but they’re not comfortable with it.

“Stalling” means they know what the plan should be, and they’re QUITE uncomfortable with it.

Economic fearmongering at TPM

It HAS TO BE an age-related thing, with bloggers and other online-heavy folks, presumably under the age of 35, or at least under the age of 40, totally ignorant of the 1980-82 recession, even to the point of seemingly salivating at the chance of using the “D” word. Paul Kurtz at Talking Points Memo is the latest guilty party.

Yes, it is true that, in terms of raw numbers, the U.S. economy lost the most jobs since 1945. But, even that is long after the Depression.

But as a percentage decline, it’s nowhere near as bad, considering the population of 305 million today is almost double that of 1945.

In fact, per CNN’s own graph, the 2008 losses aren’t as bad as 1982, as percentage of total population; it’s 8.5 percent for last year vs. 9.5 percent in 1982.

Tis also true that the unemployment percentage is going up, but it is nowhere near as bad as the last real recession, of 1980-82.

If you're not over 40, you may not remember the "double-dip" 1980-82 recession. But can we hold off saying this is the worst crisis since the Depression?

Now, it is true, as Kevin Phillips has so well noted, that unemployment calculation methodology has been, to be blunt, "fudged" since 1982. That said, some of the fudging had been done before then, as Phillips has also written.

And, as Phillips also has noted, fudging numbers has been a bipartisan affair, with Democrats back to JFK "trimming" on unemployment and the GOP "trimming" on inflation.

That said, as I note, there's a full percentage point difference between 2008 job losses and 1982. Even with allowance for fudging, I don't think you can say problems now are significantly worse than they were then.

I’ve said it before: Sometimes, whistling past the graveyard is nothing but false optimism. But at other times, becoming too afraid of the “graveyard” is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And, at least for now, I think the MSM is too much in “self-fulfilling prophecy” mode.

Also,2008 losses were less bad than two different consecutive years from the last serious recession.

First, per information from Jim Glass, about which I wasn’t sure and hadn’t checked, CNN, et al, doubly blew it, as has WM poster "Joe Friday."

Turns out 1983 was a worse year for job losses, by percentage of workforce, than both last year AND 1982.

Yes, the "augmented unemployment rate," of part-timers, discouraged and semi-discouraged, plus traditional unemployment, may be at 13.5 percent.

I found further relevant data back to 1970 at Brad DeLong's site going back to 1970, data about the employed as a percentage of the total workforce, just to further confirm what I've already said.

The ratio was .60 in 1982 and about .63 this year.

Adjusting for that, jobs lost to number of civilian employed, as percentage, was worse yet in 1982, at 15.67 percent, than the 13.45 percent last year, thus strengthening my argument.

Yes, there are other ways of skinning the cat, but per the job-loss measure which, as I said, is not fudgeable, 2008 wasn't as bad as 1982. Nor as bad as 1983; I noticed

Now, 2009 may well be worse. I'm not denying that. But, let's not yet get too much into doom and gloom.

Otherwise, folks like Mr. Kiel exemply why, although I'm on the demographic borderlands between Baby Boomers and Gen X, I don't want to be considered part of either group.

I am certainly not in the older end of the Boomers... the folks who screwed this up in the first place and inflicted narcissism on the future.

BUT... I'm not in the often-solipsistic mindset of Gen X, especially the younger part of that cohort.

Frankly, I think those of us born about 1961-66 are parts of a "lost generation."

Deep thought – Judd Gregg and Tony Snow

Doesn’t the New Hampshire Senator look more and more like President Bush’s late press secretary all the time?

I know he sounds more like Tony the Pony by the day.

Pseudo-green stimulus pork for Obama-land?

FutureGen is in line for $1 billion in stimulus money in Matoon, Ill.

Of course, BushCo money for FutureGen was cut off after Matoon was chosen over two Texas sites in 2007. Two separate probes, one by the GAO and one by Congress, are looking at that.

That said, let’s remember it’s NOT “clean” coal, just ‘somewhat less dirty” coal. And, it’s still primarily a government project. I’d prefer to invest less money until utilities line up more behind Obama’s carbon-dioxide control plans. And, to have not just Energy Secretary Chu but also the National Academy of Sciences weigh in on FutureGen.

No wonder NATO won’t help US more in A-stan

Considering the American military has an ongoing history of stiffing NATO troops by denying them U.S. field-level intelligence.

A very damning report also says that U.S. generals are resistant to CIA intelligence; that (duh) Afghan tribal leaders are junk false intelligence peddlers; and that, reminiscent of body bags in Vietnam, many commanders count the success of locally gathered intelligence by how much tip money they disburse.

The main point in the study is exacerbated by the fact that, as a percentage of population, the UK has more troops in Afghanistan than does the US.

As the story notes, it seems a lot of non-American brass hats in Afghanistan feel like they are in a Catch-22 situation. In part because they don't have a pipeline to American intelligence, they don't feel sure they know what American strategic plans are, or how they fit into that.

Rick Perry now mortgage destroyer too

Yesterday, I chided Gov. Helmethair, aka Little Ricky, for his hubris on all the jobs he claims he’s created, noting that many of those jobs have disappeared in the past three months or so.

Add mortgage destroyer to Little Ricky’s profile boasts, as Texas now has one of the five-fastest rates of increase in 90-day delinquent mortgages.

Subpoena time for Bernanke or Geithner

Over at Talking Points Memo, an e-mailing reader, talking about the crap behind the Fed’s bailout of AIG makes very clear why Congress needs to grow a pair and SUBPOENA Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner or both.

Maybe if, per Rep. Barney Frank, we prosecuted some top execs at AIG or elsewhere, Bernanke, Geithner, et al would wise up.

Prop. 8 opponents gambit appears to have backfired

Yesterday, I blogged about how California gay rights activists apparent willingness to let Proposition 8 go to a vote first, rather than wrangle the “amendment” vs. “revision” issue beforehand, in order to get what was thought to be a sure-fire voting booth win, not just a judicial one, was stupid strategy.

Well, now, it looks more and more like a losing strategy, too, as the California Supreme Court is starting to tip its hand.

In addition to gay rights activists not claiming Prop. 8 was a “revision,” why didn’t friendly California AG Jerry Brown raise that issue during the process of certifying Prop. 8, including ballot language? Instead, AG Moonbeam originally said he would DEFEND Prop. 8, only later to claim it repealed an inalienable right.

To make it worse, AG Moonbeam refused to defend that idea himself. Instead, he sent up Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Christopher Krueger, who quickly had his hat handed to him on that idea by the court.

In the end, it looks like there’s going to be a lot of goats in the Golden State.

Brown? Indeed. Der Gobernator for his previous intransigence on legislative solutions, followed by his tardy opposition to Prop. 8. A ditto on that, plus not throwing Blogger and Google Ad weight around more, puts goat horns on Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The in-your-face antics of San Fran Mayor Gavin Newsom go without saying.

Alos among those goats might be Justice Joyce L. Kennard. Understood as traditionally a strong supporter of gay rights, she stands guilty of legal idiocy in seeming to equate civil unions with marriage. Yes, sexual orientation may have the same California constitutional protection, but constitutional protection isn’t the same thing as full legal equality in hospital visitations, insurance beneficiares, etc.

The other side is finding new goats, starting with legal hired gun Ken Starr, leading the argument urging the court to invalidate gay marriages already performed.

A leading light?

Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who wondering aloud if California’s constitution isn’t just to easy to amend.

Well, do you think? How about tightening up referendum standards out there, too.

March 05, 2009

Call him President TelePrompTer

President Barack Obama reportedly has a never-before-seen TelePrompTer dependency.

That would explain why his campaign likes to play it so tight on unscripted press conferences.

I mean, using a TelePrompTer to indroduce a new Cabinet nominee? Geez.

And for sure, you’re going to want to stiff the press if their questions aren’t up on your TelePrompTer beforehand.

Interesting.

And, why?

Rainier being devastated by global warming

When Mount Rainier has been hit by three so-called “100-year-floods” in just 11 years up to the monster, landslide-inducing flood of November 2006, you know anthropogenic climate change is a serious, real issue.

And, while Rainier itself is getting all the monetary attention, followed by sister national park Olympic, the damage was severe in national forests too. And, they don’t get the same volunteer attention as an iconic national park, either.

Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists says it expects monster storms like the 2006 “Pineapple Express” to only increase. And, with less and less glacial ice sealing Rainier’s steep slopes, the landslides will surely continue.

And, that’s not all the damage they’re already causing. Read the full story for more

Rick Perry the job destroyer

Earlier today, I suggested Rick Perry shouldn’t be so gloating about Texas job creation.

Now, we’re starting to get the details of WHY – namely, we ain’t having jobs created right now.

The job losses are already piling up here in Tejas.

Unemployment up to 6.4 percent in January, up 2 full percentage points from a year ago. The Texas Workforce Commission revised 2008 job creation downward some 60,000 jobs, or 40 percent, below original estimates. Here’s more:
“It’s a significant loss,” said Tom Pauken, chairman of the commission. “I don’t think we’re going to see job growth through the rest of the year unless something dramatic happens.”

January was the third consecutive month with job losses.

Update: Add mortgage destroyer to Little Ricky’s profile boasts, as Texas now has one of the five-fastest rates of increase in 90-day delinquent mortgages.

Obama snubs Brown – probably to ditch British press

The Times (London) opines the First Lady could have (but didn’t) taken more than 10 seconds thinking of gifts for the children of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and wife Sarah, especially given the gifts Sarah Brown bought for the Obama children.

Side note – only a British paper would call peonies in a photo “menacing”!

The Telegraph weighs in with allegations of President Obama snubs to the Prime Minister, and insinuates “Lady Macbeth Obama” was behind it.

Dana Milbank, no conservative, British or otherwise, offers his American press take on what certainly sounds like a snubbing. He also makes clear that Brown’s office had been trying to push Obama to hold a full-blown presser some time in advance, and failed.

Tim Shipman at the Telegraph may well be right: Obama didn’t want to answer tough questions from the elbow-throwing British press.

Remember, this is a president who’s already given inclinations he has no problem stiffing the press at least as much as Bush did.

A further tie-in? Obama’s reportedly never-before-seen TelePrompTer dependency.

Well, sure, you’re going to want to stiff the press if their questions aren’t up on your TelePrompTer beforehand.

So, the myth of openness takes another hit.

OTOH, Alex Massie at the conservative Spectator doesn’t wholly blame Obama, given the British press corps.

Brit winger press smacks Michelle Obama for Brown family snub

The Times (London) opines the First Lady could have (but didn’t) taken more than 10 seconds thinking of gifts for the children of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and wife Sarah, especially given the gifts Sarah Brown bought for the Obama children.

Side note – only a British paper would call peonies in a photo “menacing”!

The Telegraph weighs in with allegations of President Obama snubs to the Prime Minister, and insinuates “Lady Macbeth Obama” was behind it.

The Evening Standard insinuates the Prez ain’t much better at gift-buying.

Consumers 1, Big Pharma 0

The Supreme Court has ruled drug companies can’t hide behind federal regulatory statutes as an excuse to avoid legal liability.

Here’s the background.

The Food and Drug Administration changed its policies in 2006, adopting rules that said its approval of a drug insulated companies from state lawsuits.
But Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said there was "powerful evidence that Congress did not intend FDA oversight to be the exclusive means of ensuring drug safety and effectiveness.”

Whether it DID intend that or not, such oversight shouldn’t be limited to the resource-strapped, Big Pharma-friendly FDA anyway.

Basically, in cases like the one under ruling, drug companies were saying:
Even if we have internal knowledge of problems with one of our drugs, beyond what the FDA knows, we should be allowed to continue selling it.

In other words, Big Pharma wanted absolution from willful negligence.

In fact, Wyeth attorney Bert Rein says his company was prohibited from going beyond FDA warnings.

BULLSHIT!

Did you or any other attorney ever ask FDA about that?

GM gets nearer to bankruptcy

It’s already got some overdue loans that creditors are letting slide, among its ongoing financial problems. Beyond that, it’s got a hard deadline on some debt. Less than three months away, GM has about $1 billion in convertible debentures that mature June 1. And, GM bondholders are balking at a company attempt to force a cramdown.

Let’s stop fighting this, eh, GM? The handwriting’s on the wall, on the quarter panels, inside the glove boxes and everywhere else.

Actually, it sounds like GM’s auditors are less afraid to analyze handwriting for public consumption — at least when the “public” is the SEC.

As far as fears of Chapter 11 scaring off buyers?

First, WHAT buyers?

Second, a government-structured Chapter 11 would address that. (It might also ease the road toward bank nationalization, even if twin circus clowns Geithner and Summers still oppose the idea right now.)

Hubris, thy name is Rick Perry.

In belatedly and grumblingly agreeing to accept federal stimulus money, Gov. Helmethair claims that a state with about 7 percent of the U.S. population created 80 percent of the new jobs in the U.S. last year (PDF).

Even for Little Ricky, that looks like an ego-filled boast.

Since the Dallas Federal Reserve says Texas unemployment could break 8 percent by the end of this year, Texas could be falling deeper into recession as other states start to recover.

Hey, Little Ricky, looking to run on that against Kay Bailey Cheerleader?

Update: Yet more reasons for Rick to shut his yap:

The job losses are already piling up here in Tejas.

Unemployment up to 6.4 percent in January, up 2 full percentage points from a year ago. The Texas Workforce Commission revised 2008 job creation downward some 60,000 jobs, or 40 percent, below original estimates. Here’s more:
“It’s a significant loss,” said Tom Pauken, chairman of the commission. “I don’t think we’re going to see job growth through the rest of the year unless something dramatic happens.”

January was the third consecutive month with job losses.

Taking Prop 8 opponents with a grain of salt

For the record, I agree strongly with Proposition 8 opponents that the measure was a constitutional revision and not an amendment. (It was the one major contribution I made besides my ones to the Green Party.)

That said, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is either being VERY disingenuous or else incredibly out of the loop in gay activism.

I have it on fairly good authority that many gay activists WANTED Prop. 8 on the ballot in the first place.

Reading, or hugely MISreading, the political tea leaves in the Golden State, gay rights supporters thought this was the ideal place to get the first ballot-box victory in the country.

And, due to the Religious Right, and somewhat the Mormons, they were hugely wrong.

So, instead of making the “key legal arguments” nine months ago, they’re being made now.

My ideal solution, were I a Solomonic member of the California Supreme Court?

Rule that Prop. 9 was indeed a revision, while —

Severely fining California, and even national, if necessary, gay rights leaders under any possible statute.

As if Michigan could sink much lower, oh Detroit News?

The Detroit News has a boilerplate-hot editorial against President Obama’s cap-and-trade carbon dioxide plans. saying they could “sink Michigan.”

First, while somewhat snarky, my title isn’t totally that way.

Second, as every environmentalist knows, the Big Three was working on much of this technology 30 years ago and deliberately dumped it. Where was the Detroit News editorial over that? The editorial over the Big Three sinking Michigan in exchange for short-term profit?

That would be crickets I hear.

Third, the reason EU cap-and-trade didn’t work was because standards were set wrong, cap-and-trade amounts were oversold, etc. But, that’s what happens the first time you try something so new — you get to work out bugs. Also, the “punitive” complaint was partially based on the U.S. not having any sort of CO2 plan.

Fourth, you think Michigan is underwater now? It could be really in trouble if climate change decouples Lakes Superior and Michigan from Lake Huron. Lots of inland shipping down the tubes.

That said, is there some way to link this cap-and-trade with encouraging green auto jobs in Michigan? Sure.

But, given the past history of the Big Three, quasi-protectionism be damned. “Japanese” carmakers, at least those that also have plants in America, should have a chance to get in on the same action.

Rove and Miers to testify on DOJ firings

That said, Congress did a half-cave with closed depositions. And the lawsuit in the case is being stayed, so no test case over executive branch power; that’s a specific part of the agreement.

March 04, 2009

VD Hanson licks Rush’s pilodinal cyst; Crunchy con Dreher says wake up

And finds it quite tasty.

Classicist prof, neocon, and Islamic red tide worrier V(ictor) D(avis) Hanson decries what he sees as a tide of “highbrow conservative attacks” against the Rushster, and then licks the cyst hard by saying the non-churchgoing Rush never would have stayed in Rev. Wright’s church, or the white-supremacist equivalent, and other stupidities.

So,. Mr. Crunchy Con, Rod Dreher, tells VD to buy a clue, even calling him a “Mongoloid.”

Ahh, some of the few conservatives who do have brains, arguing over the bloated, bloviating carcass called Rush Limbaugh. Gotta love it.

Maybe some banks aren’t so bad off

New Iberia Bank, in New Iberia, La., is paying back TARP money it’s received, by the end of this month, with interest. Minnesota’s TCF Financial is doing the same.

Per the Newsweek story linked first, I smell more and more of a rat at the banks much bigger than TCF or New Iberia. Per that story, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s refusal to give out disbursement details on TARP funds.

Some of the big banks, especially AIG customers, appear to be worse off than anybody will admit, and Big Ben, Treasury Secretary Tim Geither and economic czar Larry Summers are playing a shell game.

Where’s that famous Obama openness?

Hold the phone on Texas economic optimism

First, the Dallas Federal Reserve says Texas unemployment could break 8 percent by the end of the year.

Second, Mark Zandi from Moody’s doesn’t expect the bleeding to stop until some time next year.

Next question – political fallout?

I’m assuming President Obama pushes for additional economic measures some time later this year.

Having opposed the original stimulus bill, how does Kay Bailey Hutchison vote this time, should that happen?

And, if the Texas-level economy continues to sag, does Rick Perry call a special session of the Texas Legislature?

If he does, it will be short, sweet and soon, due to state law barring him from campaign fundraising while the Lege is in session.

Feingold opposes Obama budget bill too

Contrary to mainstream liberal blogs, it ain’t just “moderate” Democrats who don’t like the non-austerity omnibus budget bill for the rest of fiscal 2009. Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, about as far as you can get from a moderate Democrat, is also strongly against the bill.

That said, if it passes the Senate, will Obama wait the campaign-pledged five days before signing it?

If you believe that, I’ve got some non-foreclosed houses in South Florida to sell

Afghanistan on the front lines

The Wall Street Journal has a good article illustrating what “front line” fighting is like in Afghanistan, the differences between it and Iraq, what President Obama hopes to accomplish with his surge ….

And, an arrow pointing to tea-leaf reading angles on how likely such accomplishments will be.

Cigarettes – another reason to be glad Bush is gone

A bill giving the Food and Drug Administration not just the authority but even the direct charge to regulate cigarettes could make its way into law this year. That alone would be a notable healthcare measure.

How much will Big Tobacco fight this one?

Twenty percent the new deep end of the housing pool

That’s what percentage of American mortgages are now underwater.

The percentage could well increase if housing values fall much more. By percentage, Nevada is the worst state.

No more Halliburtons? No more KBRs? No more LTVs?

Well, perhaps not that good of news, but President Barack Obama plants to dramatically change government contracting rules, trying to get a handle on as much as $300 billion in cost overruns in the past several years, including the new presidential helicopters.

Boo-hoo for doctors getting Internet patient critiques

Turns out doctors don’t like Internet-savvy patients, especially those posting doctor reviews, especially those at a place called RateMDs.

But, it’s not the only site that lets patients rate doctors. Angie’s List, which lets customer members rate all sorts of businesses and professionals, has more than

Beyond that, potentially wrong patient reviews can be wrong both ways:
Dr. Lauren Streicher, a Chicago gynecologist, said she has seen shoddy doctors praised online who she would not trust “to deliver my mail much less my baby.”

Ahh, there you go.

Now, I agree that a patient’s rating shouldn’t be the sole, or even the primary, factor in picking a doctor. But, this is just word-of-mouth in the online world, that’s all. And, it should be A factor, where available.

Is Obama lying about his letter to Medvedev?

I’m guessing he IS doing something along those lines called “ walking it back” and trying to delink his actual letter linking realigning a U.S. missile shield if Russia would stop helping Iran with nuclear and missile technology.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said no, and leaked the letter to the New York Times, which reported on it.

And now, Obama’s trying to pretend he never sent such a letter.

More proof Just.Another.Politician.™ is lying? Members of his own administration told U.S. media about the letter.

Obviously, he won’t be believed in Russia; no telling who will, or will not, swallow his claim over here.

A-Roid to have hip examined

Why? Is the doc going to see if one of Yuri Sucrat’s steroid needles gave him tetanus? Or did he sprain his ass on his Scott Boras-monogrammed wallet? Insert other joke at the site of A-Roid’s injury, a cyst on his hip.

Lemme see. Did those “boli” needles hit the hipbone too often?

March 03, 2009

Paying only for healthcare that works?

Will President Barack Obama really do that as part of modernizing our healthcare system, as Mike Madden notes he claims?

Color me HIGHLY skeptical at this point.

First thing he will have to do to de-skepticize me is get Congress to kill the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine inside the National Institutes of Heath.

Right now, to put it bluntly, our government is funding quackery. Until that’s stopped, well, Obama just ain’t that believable.

And, if it means butting heads with Sen.-Supplements, Orrin Hatch, all the better.

On the Dem side of the aisle, Tom Harkin clearly will be bruising for a fight, given that he thinks NICAM already turns down too many alt-med grant requests, especially if Obama gets his way on cutting Big Ag subsidies. Maybe he can be fobbed off somehow.

Second, since Obama promised during the campaign to expand George Bush’s faith-based social initiatives, many of which have already been proven to not work, we have empirical evidence from a parallel field — psychology, in place such as treatment and rehab — that Obama is ready to fund programs that don’t work at all.

So, from where this naturalistic skeptic sits, Obama already has two strikes against him, one of which, in essence, he threw against himself.

John Wiley Price looks at ‘shakedown’ suit

Price, the dean, or the class clown at times, of the Dallas County Commissioners Court wants to depose Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, to determine whether or not to press a libel suit against the two of them.

And, if they didn’t? Will he go after the Dallas Observer, whose gadfly reporter, Jim Schutze, has been kicking Price in the testimacles on a regular basis the last couple of months over his…

(alleged)

Shakedown attempts on The Allen Group, which is developing a 6,000-acre transportation/warehousing megasite in south central Dallas, Wilmer, Hutchins and Lancaster.

The “shakedown” allegations come from comments Johnson, in particular, reportedly made to Schutze.

Price says the two fellow Democrats accused him of unethical if not illegal behavior and therefore may have:
“Therefore may have seriously damaged his reputation.”

Ahh, JWP.

You have to have a reputation in the first place. Well, you have to have a good reputation.

Friends of mine both white and black report that your (alleged) shakedowns, which began with African-American Hutchins Mayor Artis Johnson three years ago, over the Wintergreen Road bridge over the Union Pacific intermodal facility, note that the “people” you’re trying to help aren’t Dallas County blacks but Dallas County FOJWP who also happen to be black.

EB&J claims she never used the word “shakedown.”

Here’s what Schutze writes her up as saying in his initial story:
Johnson told me last week she views Commissioner Price’s role, in particular, as part of a long, bad history: “I see all of these different deals that he’s trying to do over the years, shaking people down and all that kind of stuff.”

And further on:
“John was making sure he put a cork in there to stop everything until they did what he wanted them to do.”

OK, she uses the verb form, not the noun, in the first quote.

Oh, per the Observer’s Unfair Park blog, Schutze’s got EB&J on tape, too. (And, the Snooze never did, according to the Observer, try to contact Jimbo.)

AND, and… at the Unfair Park link, there’s MP3s of all those conversations.

Also, asking to do depositions before filing a suit, even if for the purpose of determining who to sue, is basically a judicial fishing expedition.

That said, I'd love to see this suit go forward.

Maybe we can get Royce West on the stand, too, and figure out how Royce was either dumb enough or tacky enough to get mixed up with JWP's business on this issue.

C-H-A-P-T-E-R 11 is spelled GM?

With sales numbers like these from February, the General can’t survive.

Nor can Obama have a good chance of giving it any more money short of it filing for a “guided” Chapter 11. Let’s be realistic here.

It was the worse auto sales month since the middle of the 1980-82 recession, when the population was only three-quarters the size of today. In population adjusted terms, it’s probably the worst since World War II.

Seven TAKS myths

The Dallas Morning News debunks seven myths about the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, the state’s standardized school test battery.

The myths include that it’s hard, when actually, Gov. Helmethair could pass it; that it’s college-level achievement to pass, and that you’ll fail third, fifth or eighth grade if you don’t pass TAKS at that level.

Do goldbugs want a depression?

Bloomberg strongly says they’d better not. Gold is deflationary, plus, much of it today comes from China or Russia, making it a very iffy geopolitical commodity.

We wouldn’t want an oil-standard economy, would we? That’s about how dumb the gold standard is.

Could a real green stimulus go up in smoke?

California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wants to legalize and tax marijuana to help get the Golden State out of its dire straits.

Since pot does about 2.5 times as much in sales as all California veggies combined, it’s an idea with merit. Possibly as much as $1.3 billion in California taxes merit

He also notes, in his Salon interview, it would save millions on California’s prison system.

Kamiya tries to fluff Obama on Iraq and fails

Gary Kamiya says Obama is practically a genius for his “middle of the road “ Iraq (alleged) withdrawal plan.

At The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss hands him his hat, showing that “middle of the road” is the whole problem, in a nutshell.

Why an Oregon Islamic charity matters to your civil liberties

Glenn Greenwald gives Obama a pair of black eyes on the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation appeals court ruling.

The first is for unsuccessfully trying to stifle a judicial peek at at least a small segment of BushCo’s warrantless wiretapping. It is shameful, and worse.

As Glenn notes, Obama didn’t ask for more time on this judicial ruling; instead, his Department of Justice jumped in both feet to defend BushCo policy.

In a very important footnote, then, Glenn even wonders if Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri is being sent by Obama out of Gitmo for civilian trial for the same reason BushCo did with Jose Padilla – to avoid a Supreme Court ruling, and leave the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on Padilla in place?

The second black eye follows on the first. After further criticizing the Obama DOJ on Haramain, unsuccessfully trying to stifle, Glenn puts it in larger context. He notes that in the Haramain pleading, here’s the nut graf:
According to Obama, only the President has the power to decide what is done with classified information, and neither courts nor Congress have any power at all to do anything but politely request that the President change his mind.

With this statement, Glenn says we need to take that critical of a look at all related civil liberties issues. As he has already done on al-Marri.

And, so, the myth that Obama would reverse BushCo policies on civil liberties gets two more black eyes.

Bobbsey twins put cap on Obama stimulus

Which raises the question, can the Bobbsey twins, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Team Obama economic czar Larry Summers, save the economy?

Paul Krugman might have more reason to say No.

The WaPost has a semi-puff job piece on the two

Among the most interesting tidbits?

Despite the GOP, on the one hand, saying that FDR made the Depression worse, and Paul Krugman on the other hand saying the Obama stimulus is too small, Summers-Geithner have led the “budget hawk” fight inside Team Obama.
Meeting in January on the eighth floor of the transition team's office in downtown Washington, Geithner pressed the incoming president to commit to cutting the deficit to 3 percent of the economy over the next five years, which would keep the nation's debt roughly in line with normal economic growth. Summers quickly backed him.

Well, just as the current economic clusterfuck is putting paid to traditional conservativism, even thought the GOP doesn’t see itself as a fish just shot in a barrel, if the two-headed Summers-Geithner monster is wrong, neoliberalism is dead, too.

But, due to the two-party duopoly, it’s going to be hard to clear the two corpses out of the way.

March 02, 2009

Blago gets six-figure book advance

Dunno how much of a tell-all former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will pen, but I actually am curious.

It’s supposed to focus on the eventual tapping of Roland Burris to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

That said, there’s a lot he COULD talk about.

What did Bobby Rush say behind the scenes?

How up to his eyes in money was Jesse Jackson III in chasing Blago’s nod?

And, at least circumspectly, since Pat Fitzgerald seems no closer to mounting Blago’s head on his prosecutorial wall, what will Blago tell us about that?

Frankly, I think Fitz is looking more overrated all the time.

The abysmal state of Texas sex education

When a MALE high school student wonders aloud about his cervical cancer risk, you know that “just say no,” abstinence-only and Korean War-era leftover Army VD films and other scare tactics, being used for what Gov. Helmethair and the Texas Education Agency euphmemistically call sex education is an utter flop.

And, that’s not the only problem. We also have illegal church-state mixtures, sexual stereotypes and more:
One abstinence-only program used in 53 school district says women need “financial support,” while men need “domestic support,” according to the report.

Some Texas classrooms mix religious instruction and Bible study into sex education programs.

“Hardly a page can be found that does not include multiple references to Bible verses, invocation of Christian principles, even attempts to proselytize students with the Christian plan of salvation,” the report states about a program called Wonderful Days used by three districts in the Fort Worth area.

Inaccuracies are also an issue. Condom failure rates, only about 2-3 percent in reality, are often taught as being as high as 20 percent. If not with the individual teachers, with the level of curriculum writing, I suspect that’s deliberate.

It’s all laid out in an executive study of the survey.

Nationalization, hell; expropriation, anyone?

Rather than the "socialist" idea of nationalizing bad banks, I'm ready for the Marxist one, of expropriating bonuses that top execs at bad banks earned for their clusterfuck mistakes, especially after reading stories like this about fired, booted, canned, lower-level executives who are now "collateral damage."

More global warming news for George Will

First, the UN is warning that the world’s fishing industry nust do more to deal with climate change, as well as overfishing.

Second, a British team is on its way to the North Pole as we speak, to see Her how much the ice is thinning.

George, as a recently deceased idol of your said all the time, “Stand by for NEWS!”

Female sex desire NOT so different from male

Turns out that on this, as on other sexuality issues, whether to come off as “good girls” or whatever, women may be, either consciously or unconsciously, be lying a lot more than they would like to admit.

Per a female-adapted version of the plethysmograph, women, like men, show plenty of visually-aroused sexual desire. It’s all part of a long story on “what do women want,” how more women and not just men are getting engaged in the scientific study of female sexuality, findings like the above and more.

As a sidebar note, if a story like this doesn’t put “paid” to some of the gender-based stupid — and sexist — claims of Pop Evolutionary Psychology, then I’m a female bonobo’s uncle. (Read the story for the joke.)

Rod Dreher – CPAC is ‘white kids on dope’

When somebody as conservative as Mr. Crunchy Con, current Dallas Morning News and former New York Post editorial columnist Rod Dreher, makes a comment like that about this past week’s Conservative Political Action Committee confab, you know it’s bad.

Dreher goes beyond that.

He says that the Big Fat Idiot, Rush Limbaugh, is not a conservative, does not understand the philosophical foundations of modern American conservativism and more.

Well, half right there, Rod.

One doesn’t have to be a social conservative to be a conservative, totally refuting your religious-driven belief that conservatives believe in “fallen human nature.” Which gives irony, at least, if not hypocrisy at most, to this Dreher rhetorical question:
Do they really believe politics is dogmatic religion?

You gonna dig up Barry Goldwater and tell him he wasn’t a conservative?

March 01, 2009

Another Obama-Iraq withdrawal loophole

Hat tip to Juan Cole’s Salon column for this one.

Even if Obama does, in fact, withdraw all troops by the end of 2011…

“Troops” doesn’t include Air Force or Navy personnel, just Army and Marines.

Especially in the case of the Air Force, remember, we’ve got bases all around the world… and in a lot of spots in southern Asia.

So, per your bit of insight, Juan, disregarding your broad-mindedness, I’ll remain skeptical for now.


Free polls from Pollhost.com
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The latest Team Obama money scandal?

President Barack Obama’s new urban affairs czar, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion seems to have had some amazing campaign finance luck after most times he approved new real estate developments.

And, Carrion’s refusal to comment beyond a released statement doesn’t look very good.

The complete story is very detailed on the who, how much and when of these campaign contributions, too.

This is why someone like Robert Byrd is spot-on to rail about how all of these “czars,” unreviewable by the Senate, are unconstitutional. And, this being revealed the same day that Obama’s budget director talked about doing an end run around Senate procedural rules doesn’t come off good at all.

Outcasts to society

OUTCASTS TO SOCIETY

(As inspired by e-mails from Glo)

No crime adheres to being a loner or not fitting in,
No more than in having a case of “everyday blues.”
There is no crime, none at all
To have a highly individualized human nature
Even if part of that is not organic
But a deliberate, driven reaction to outside conventions;
That too is laudable.

Society, in all its groups and assemblies,
Needs also its critics and challengers
To lift upraised hands against the lemming-like yea-sayers
And tell them why they should stop.

Society needs its loners, too;
Those who soberly drop out
From elements of the 300-million-strong social rat race
That either their ideals or their psychology simply cannot accept.

This modern world needs its emotional critics, too,
Who will feel however they will, and not as society says,
Being Hamlets in the face of a din of Pollyannas,
True to their own emotional selves.

As soon as I finish finding out who I am,
I will find my place more firmly in this countercurrent,
And more confidently measure myself
Less and less in dollar signs, job descriptions, or relationship life.
In the meantime, a semi-reasonable facsimile of me
Will continue to do what seems to be a semi-true-to-life job
Of marching to his own drum.

— March 1, 2009

Obama ready to show Reid how to run Senate?

President Barack Obama, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orzag, is ready to use 50-vote Senate procedural rules to short-circuit filibuster attempts against his energy and healthcare reform programs. Orzag said on ABC that Obama was looking at using the Senate’s budget reconciliation system.

He added that an alternative was to form a commission, similar to the military base closure commission, and then vote its recommendation up or down, without amendment.

I deliberately did NOT put “GOP/Republican” in the URL link, because a few Democrats — Robert Byrd springs immediately to mind — could well decide to support a filibuster on the energy program, depending on just how “green” it is on carbon dioxide emissions.

Also, Byrd is a stickler for both Senate rules and for Constitutional checks and balances, as he made clear last year. Between that and the fact that Obama certainly had some hand in easing him out of the Appropriations chair last year, means that the White House is probably playing with some charge of dynamite unless it’s already working directly with Byrd.

That said, this may be the clearest indication yet that Obama plans a different governing approach than we've seen in the past, and a more hands-on one.

As for how serious Orzag is about the commission idea, I don't know. That may have been nothing more than a political tactics sop, to somebody. In reality, unless the commission is structured, on the two issues at hand, to avoid Senate GOP obstructionism, I do not see how it adds much to the tactical angles.

Brown looks across pond to outfox Sarko

It’s been clear for several months now that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have been vying for supremacy in leading Europe’s response to the global recession and financial mess.

Well, Brown has now decided to play the “special relationship” card with President Barack Obama.

Good luck with that. Somehow, I suspect Sarko won’t be happy at all, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is probably less than fully happy.

Gates – Iran NOT close to the bomb

Defense Secretary Robert Gates dialed down the worry meter today on Iran’s nuclear fuel and weapons development, this after Adm. Mike Mullen, head of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff, had dialed it up last week.

THIS is why Obama is right on unemployment

Southern anti-labor GOP governors, like Texas’ very own Gov. Helmethair, Rick Perry, have been dead-set opposed against accepting part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package money, because it might force them to change their labyrinthine, punitive unemployment compensation laws

The New York Times, then, in a story on unemployed executives slipping down the pay scale on new jobs, reports on its jump page that Arizona is even worse than Texas ! Imagine $240 a week as your maximum unemployment benefit.

A note to Dallas County Sheriff's Dept on highway traffic

Which is more unsafe, crossing multiple lanes of freeway traffic at once, while under control and with a visible path, or the left-lane lopers that clog our freeways more and more all the time?

I know the answer, or at least, know the answer is situational.

You, on the other hand, do not.

Unfortunately, in part due to two deputies, not just one, chances of that being rationally discussed in a Dallas County court of law are slim and none.

Outcasts in the name of gOd

The Hindus took racism
Against natives of darker hue
And made it a religious crime.
Their four-tiered socio-religious totem pole
Had the grunts of manual labor at the bottom,
But, left without even a pole to pose on
Were, and still are today,
The shittiest workers of Indian society,
Pun intended –
Out-castes.
Untouchables in their alleged contamination,
Calling them harijan, or the lOrd’s children
As a Gandhian absolution
Is no absolution for a stain, a blot,
On the very core of Hindu thought.

God told Saul, “Kill the Amalekites!”
And not just the adults, but the seven children
That went along with each adult family,
And not just the children,
But the seven livestock the adults had
For each of their children.
No Amalekites would be allowed to go to St. Ives,
Or Hebron, or Shechem, or Shiloh,
As the world’s first recorded Holocaust
Was perpetuated by Jews and not against them.

In the American South, in the land of cotton,
Old bible passages were not forgotten
But were twisted, to look away from the evil
Of black slavery in Dixie land.
No, no, worse than that;
Twisted to justify slavery as a redeeming,
Christianizing uplift,
For alleged children of Canaan,
Smitten by the curse of Ham.
People who wished they had not been born in Dixie
Were told it was for their own good,
And in fulfillment of the word of gOd.
Oh, ye cursed of Ham!

No wonder that Sunday morning
Is still the most segregated hour in America;
No wonder that Indian outcastes
Have their own political party;
No wonder that right-wing Israeli Jews
Talk of an Arab-rein Eretz Yisrael.
The real wonder is that blacks didn’t become atheists
Long before the Nation of Islam,
Or that the Dalits, oppressed outcastes, aren’t all Buddhist, or Christian,
Or that some Arabs still participate in Israeli political life.

Were a god actually to exist, he would be mocked by his own alleged words.

Diets don’t matter – calories do

As long as particular diet isn’t unsafe, there’s nothing “wrong” with it. There’s also nothing special about any of them, per the largest medical study ever.

Counting overall calories is the bottom line.