May 30, 2009

It will be gay marriage ‘lite’ in NH

In fact, the New Hampshire Legislature is even toughening up a bit language Gov. John Lynch said it needed to adopt to keep him from vetoing gay marriage legislation.

That said, while I don’t like the opt-out on insurance coverage for spouses, I don’t think that’s a constitutional issue. It is, though, another argument for national healthcare, with single-payer coverage as at least one option

GOP dumbness hits new low on Sotomayor race-bait

Hispanic Republicans are flipping their collective gourds at the race-based attacks of people like Newt Gingrich, not just wigged-out blogs, at President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

Expecting the possibity of something like this is why I blogged earlier this week about how the Sotomayor choice could well help Obama in 2012.

Ted Rall rightly says its time for Obama to resign

The One’s re-establishment of military commissions is the last straw for Rall, my favorite left-liberal blogger. And, seen as a rhetorical device, Rall’s closing “Obama should resign” is absolutely true.

Of course, when a fairly big conservative blogger shows he knows so little about Rall to claim Rall is a Democrat (he isn’t, of that I’m pretty sure, based on e-mail exchanges going back more than a year), that Rall will have a David Horowitz moment (not to move to the Right, he won’t; he already moved the other direction, leaving the Wall Street investment banking world where he worked before becoming a cartoonist and columnist), and then snidely claims this means Obama has lost un-America shows the problems with both the conservative bloviosphere and the MSLB world that won’t follow Rall.

Of course, “The Other McCain” readers include a person who doesn’t recognize Rall’s call as a rhetorical device, because I know Ted Rall shudders at the idea of President Joe Biden.

Chubbing – why Texas needs an every-year Lege

I have said time and time again that Texas needs an every-year legislature, that it’s ridiculous that a state of more than 20 million people has a legislative body that just meets every other year. I agree that voter ID is bad law, at least as written by Texas Republicans, and should be killed, but I don’t like all the collateral legislative damage.

That said, with a solution like New Mexico’s, for example, of a shorter term in even-numbered years, Texas wouldn’t have this mess of too many bills crammed on a tight legislative calendar in the first place.

Beyond THAT, though, lets not forget that the Texas GOP brought this on itself by suspending the Senate’s two-thirds rule to pass voter ID there in the first place.

Is torn labrum a steroids indicator?

Phillies pitcher Brett Myers becomes the latest baseball player to need hip surgery for that issue.

Now, I’ve not heard a lot of juicing speculation about Myers, but other people on the list in the story?

A-Roid? Proven. Mike Lowell? Often speculated. Carlos Delgado? Fairly often. Chase Utley? Rumored by at least a few.

As is Myers.

I’m by no means alone in my suspicions, as Googling “Chase Utley” plus “steroid users” shows more than 800 hits.

That includes this sports blog, which notes:
"Self-reported anabolic-androgenic steroids use was significantly associated with the following self-reported, medically diagnosed, joint and cartilaginous injuries in comparison with the nonanabolic-androgenic steroids users."

That, in tern, is linked from a journal of rehabilitative sports medicine.

I wouldn’t argue at all.

For some more in-depth discussion on hip injuries, including the idea that overexercising to strengthen knees puts too much stress on hips, go here.

May 29, 2009

Magna-Opel deal OKed – GM finances even shakier

Canadian auto parks maker Magna has the OK from all sorts of concerned parties to buy GM’s European subsidiary Opel. Actually, Magna itself will NOT be the primary shareholder; rather, than will be Russian bank Sberbank; the duo will work with Russian carmaker Gaz in some sort of consortium to extend Opel’s reach into Eastern Europe.

Fiat, another primary bidder, backed out after GM said it need an additional €300 million, or nearly $400 million, in short-term funding. Fiat head Sergio Marchionne said it was “unreasonable” to cough up the extra money without a full look at GM’s books. And, I

That last part says that while it may be helpful for GM to shed Opel, as far as going through bankruptcy here in the U.S., the demand for such much additional last-minute money makes me wonder just what’s lurking in the General’s accounting ledgers in the way of ticking time bombs, still undiscovered. It also confirms my belief that it will take far longer than 90 days from now for GM to clear bankruptcy.


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Team Obama backs off Sotomayor as ‘wise Latina’

Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called her comments “poorly chosen.” Obama himself said, “I’m sure she would have restated it,” given an opportunity.

If The One thinks a bit of Kumbaya cum mea culpa will satisfy conservative attack dog groups …

Mancow defends use of torturous waterbording

Talk-radio conservative Mancow says, against conservative bloggers, that his recent waterboarding wasn’t a hoax, but against progressive bloggers, that, having called it torture, he’d still have our country do it.

Well, at least he’s more honest about it being torture than Darth Cheney. And, given that he’s definitely, IMO, more likely to inflame Muslim tensions than the Abu Ghraib 2.0 pix Obama is suppressing.

It IS a scat box – no shit

And now, the second Friday scatblogging. In Seneca County, Ohio, six companies are competing to build a new facility for Seneca County Agency Transportation. SCAT popped up, or would that be pooped up later, a second time, on the county commission’s agenda.

What’s Portuguese for SCAT?

Here’s the first of not one but TWO Friday scatblogging posts for this week.

As to that question? Well, in Somerville, Mass., Brazil@SCAT is all about the movies. SCAT? That's Somerville Community Access Television.

Chrysler-Fiat NOT a done deal

U.S. Judge Arthur Gonzales has note yet signed off. And, if he does, his decision is likely to be appealed, by a variety of groups, for a variety of reasons.

When I said earlier this week it could take GM 18 months to clear bankruptcy, thing like this are part of what I had in mind.

Cyber-czar – yet the latest Obama czardom

Hey, I have no problem with the White House wanting to increase its focus on cybersecurity issues. But, the appropriate place for that focus is where the Bush Administration had it, within the Department of Homeland Security, and NOT with yet another White House-based czar, yet another Obama management tool of dubious constitutionality.

More creeping presidentialism.

Granholm smokes Big Three ‘green’ crack

Yesterday, in dissecting the likelihood that General Motors could make a quick emergence from bankruptcy (and even raising in passing the question of whether it could really emerge from bankruptcy at all), and noting how much it could stiff the government/taxpayer in the process, I wondered skeptically (to put it politely) at the naïve optimism (to put it politely) of President Barack Obama’s “industrial policy” toward two of the Shrinking Three automakers.

Well, it turns out The One has nothing in this area on Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who (to put it politely) is whistling in the dark.

Unless Toyota is opening its delayed U.S. Prius plant in the Great Lakes State, Granholm is even more deluded about the Shrinking Three than Obama is, given the woo she pitches at the HuffPost. (Of course, given the amount of pseudoscience the Greek Goddess peddles, it’s only fitting that this pseudoeconomics piece should appear there too. It's also fitting that Gang Green-ish Kos would tout this story.)

Beyond the absurd idea that GM or Chrysler is going to make anything green in terms of either environmentally-driven cars OR American dinero in profits in the next several years, some of the companies she touts as partners in this project?

Dow Chemical? Polluter of Saginaw Bay. Hardly green.

Johnson Controls? With at least one municipal government that I’ve reported for a newspaper, it’s failed to deliver on projected “green” cost savings.

Dunno about all the others, but if these are alleged “green” partners for GM, it shows just how deluded — or how fearfully grasping at straws — Granholm is.

It could be a mix, to be sure. In that case, the end result is self-delusion.


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A roadless kudo for Team Obama

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a one-year moratorium on road-building in national forests. Basically, it’s a continuation of President Clinton’s 2001 roadless rule, which has been tied up in legal knots ever since. Those legal battles are part of why Vilsack announced the moratorium.

Immediate winner? Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, where it has been estimated 35 miles of additional roads would be needed for several logging sales to be pulled off.

Chinese demolish ancient Uighur city in name of ‘need’

Claiming it was too earthquake-prone to remain standing, Beijing is demolishing the centuries-old, nay millennium-plus-old, city of Kashgar and partially replacing it with a Potemkinish recreation.

Here’s my guess as to the real reason the Chinese government decided on this.

Kashgar is seen as too potent a symbol, rallying cry and focus of Uighur community, religious belief, even nationalism. So, it “has to be” destroyed.

If something happens to Lhasa, Tibet, next, you know this is what’s up.

May 28, 2009

Double-dip recession?

Iconoclastic and sometimes contrarian economist Nouriel Roubini says it’s quite possible.

That said, Roubini’s comments remind me of a couple of things.

First, iconoclastic contrarians usually revel in the attention they get by being … well, iconoclastic contrarians. And, I think Roubini’s reveling in spades.

Second, it’s economist joke time.

How does a contrarian economist get 60 percent of his predictions right?

“Regular” economists only get 40 percent right, right? …

Well, do the math, you non-economists.

That said, any second dip is likely to be less severe than the first one.

Unless other factors come in.

See, I could be an economist!

GM cuts better bondholder deal, to stiff taxpayers

General Motors has negotiated a better deal with its bondholders, many of whom will accept, though that should have little effect on GM’s still-expected bankruptcy.

Here’s the big news, though, out of GM’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing on the new bondholder deal:

General Motors says it is unlikely to pay back any of the government help it’s already gotten OR any additional government financial help it will get as part of a government-structured bankruptcy.

Between already granted help of $14.9 billion and what it expects to get in bankruptcy, the total aid could hit $50 billion. GM expects to repay just $8 billion.
More than $40 billion of federal help to GM will be converted into a 72.5% stake in the new company. This means that for taxpayers to make back any of the money loaned to GM, it will have to be because shares of the new GM increase dramatically in value following an exit from bankruptcy.

And, if you believe GM stock is going to be worth dramatically more, anytime close to soon after it comes out of bankruptcy (IF it does, which is a whole nother issue), I’ve got some Timmy Geither tax advice to sell you, too.

There’s a number of hurdles. One, GM’s cutting an entire product line, meaning fewer car sales. Two, GM is ahead of only Chrysler among the American Shrinking Three in having truly fuel-sipping vehicles to offer. No hybrids. No money to bring the Volt (gee, who couldn’t have seen that coming) to market. Nothing on the horizon.

These are, in fact, some of the reasons the Obama Administration decided not to give GM more bailout money three months ago. And, not one thing has changed for the better since then.

Five years from now, even with some sort of economic recovery, I’ll bet the General is selling 20 percent fewer cars than this year.

Ahh, that Obama industrial policy. Again, nobody’s going to buy higher-mileage American cars, Herr Obama, without the stick of a higher gas tax. And, even then, for the next five years, GM ain’t going to be making any of them!

Sometimes, The One is idealistic, sometimes he’s pseudo-idealistic, and sometimes he’s just effing clueless. (Or chickenshit on refusing to follow the logical road on federal gas taxes.) Just.Another.Politician.™

You know, if Obama actually would do a full-blown industrial policy, he might pull off a GM turnaround. But, without it being “full-blown”? Forget it.

Oh, and unless Toyota is opening its delayed U.S. Prius plant in the Great Lakes State, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is even more deluded about the Shrinking Three than Obama is. (Of course, given the amount of pseudoscience the Greek Goddess peddles, it’s only fitting that this pseudoeconomics piece should appear there too.)


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Abu Ghraib 2.0 pix show rapes – Obama tactics backfiring? Cover-up?

Both male-female and male-male rapes are pictured in the photographs President Barack Obama is fighting against releasing.

Of course, the more this gets reported by newspapers, the worse it could look for the U.S. in the Muslim world with a sort of “emotional judo.” The longer Obama refuses to release the pix even while places like the Telegraph tell more what’s on some of them, conspiratorial thinkers begin wondering just what is worse than what newspaper leakers have revealed. They then wonder how high up the U.S. military chain of command this reaches, and what Obama is covering up.
Maj. Gen. (Anthony) Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

I’d rather not. Who knows how complicit YOU are? (Read the full story for additional comments by Taguba.)

We don’t.

Obama claims “appropriate actions” have been taken. How do we know that?

We don’t.

Since the victim of a male-male rape is now involved with a civil suit, how do we know you’re not covering up legal evidence?

We don’t.

Update: The Pentagon is denying the claims about the new pix; of course, what else do you expect? Although it had originally agreed on releasing them, Defense Secretary Bob Gates agrees with Obama on NOT releasing them.

Obama Admin understatement of the year on GM

An Obama Administration official said today a GM bankruptcy process could take 60-90 days, perhaps longer.

Duh-oh!

Would you like to try as long as 18 months on that bankruptcy process, instead?



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Texas Senate rejects McLeroy

The Texas Senate, on a party line vote, got all Democrats to stand firm, thereby rejecting Don McLeroy to head the State Board of Education.

McLeroy, a strong opponent of evolution, and upholder of creationist principles, along the lines of "teach the controversy" (there is none within the peer-reviewed scientific world) was opposed for his divisiveness and contentiousness.

Here’s a backgrounder on final debate before the vote.

Quo vadis gas prices?

The U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration claims they’ll be the same at the end of September as they are now.

Yeah, right. If you believe that, I have CO2-free Alberta tar sands to sell you.

Especially since OPEC announced today it will not increase output, it wouldn’t surprise me if oil hits $80/bbl by the peak of summer vacationing and is still over $70 at the end of September, putting national gas prices at that time at $2.60/gallon or so.

Boo hoo for Gang Green enviros

First, another e-mail from the National Resources Defense Council, wanting money to help the polar bears that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refuses to better protect.

I e-mailed back that not only is money a bit tight for me right now, I wanted to see Gang Greeners like the NRDC eat some crow first for their “access embrace” of Salazar when Obama nominated him.

Then, the Sierra Club wanted money to help the endangered Florida panther. I e-mailed back, asking if it would also protect the possibly-extinct independent Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, too.

Hello Greenland, good-bye New England

If Greenland’s ice melt continues at its current rate, fast enough we could start saying hello to more earth there, not just ice, good-bye New England at least along the coast, could well happen.

So, President Obama, want your adminstration to keep lecturing the rest of the world to cut more CO2 instead of us?

Fed as umbrella risk regulator? No thanks

President Barack Obama wants to give the Federal Reserve Board the job of being the nation’s overall risk regulator.

Sounds good, no?

No.

For decades, the Fed chairman, in testimony before Congress has always whipped out the word “private” in referring to its private-public status when fending off further Congressional regulation or investigation of IT. That would only happen in spades after this.

We’d probably wind up with an 1830s-style Bank of the United States.

May 27, 2009

Conservative BS on Sotomayor reversal rate

Contra the Washington Times bullshit, three of five cases isn’t statistically significant.

Beyond that, though, there is more.

Having only five of her cases granted cert by SCOTUS is actually much more significant. And in just the opposite direction of the conservative bloviosphere the Times represents.

And, if the Times does NOT understand what is statistically significant, well, that's why conservatives resist so much scientific information — they can't understand that, either.

Obama lies about Sotomayor vetting

He gives a big abortion speech at Notre Dame just after vetting Sotomayor and other SCOTUS candidates on his short list, and now claims he never asked Sotomayor her position on abortion? Puhleeze.

Even for Just.Another.Politician.™, this is a Clintonesque whopper. And, it does the confirmation process no good. Next, we’ll get lies about gay rights. Or First Amendment issues.

I smell a possible rat in Philly ‘abduction’

Call me hard-hearted, cynical, both or worse, but the old white woman and daughter abducted by undescribed black men sounds a bit stereotyped, stereotyping and iffy.

Just because I haven’t Geithner-bashed in a while …

I probably have been remiss, so I point you to Salon and Andy Kroll’s six-point laundry list on why TARP, etc. sucks.

Let’s not forget the dynamic duo of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have done their level, and non-level, best, or worst, to keep not just the general public, but even Congress, in the dark as to just what all this bailout money is doing.

Fusion folly? More than likely

The government’s new National Ignition Facility is, more than likely, nothing more than the latest outbreak of hype in 40 or more years of “peaceful fusion power is just around the corner.” Even many of its boosters hedge their bets as to the likelihood of the NIF achieving something besides burning through billions of dollars.

US lectures on CO2 but won’t do more

The United States just issued a warning that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions could grow 40 percent by 2030. But this comes just days after the Obama Administration said it would NOT undertake any efforts, beyond those already planned, to try for further cuts in its own emissions, contrary to pressures by both the EU and China.

So, what sounds like a lecture sounds like a hypocritical lecture.

GM bankruptcy – an economic stimulus?

If GM does go bankrupt, somebody is guaranteed more work for sure – a legion of bankruptcy lawyers and economists. The story notes that Detroit hopes a GM bankruptcy case is filed there, rather than New York or Delaware, just for the economic stimulus.

Crazy.
“I’ve never seen a bankruptcy that has such a happy face on it as this one,” Gary N. Chaison, professor of industrial affairs at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said of the work that has been done in advance.

Really crazy.

Read the full story.

Cell phones in prison a growing problem

Since I first blogged about this issue back in 2007, it seems like the problem is only becoming more serious.

As the new story notes, California state penal officials confiscated more than 2,800 cell phones last year, double that of 2007. Texas could confiscate nearly 1,500 this year.

Why? Federal law prohibits jamming cell phones, though Congress is considering new legislation on that, targeted at prisons. As for what you can do with one inside the stir?

You can call in drug deals, either from the outside or within prison. You can talk to sympathetic guards. You can use them as a form of prison currency for those two reasons. You can rent them out, for reasons one and two. Probably, you can get, like condos, time-share cell phones.

More seriously than that, you can orchestrate prison gang work, set up outside crimes and harassment, arrange getaway rides for escapes, call in bribes for those more friendly prison guards and more.

Here in Texas, Grits for Breakfast picked up on some issues back in 2007, following up on a National Public Radio story that highlights the problem nationally, including this Texas example:
Last month, a warden in Texas also got a call — from the mother of one of his inmates. She was calling to complain that her son was getting poor cell-phone reception inside the prison.

“She was paying for the service, and she felt that she should get good service out of the prison,” says John Moriarity, the inspector general of the Texas prison system. “That cell-phone company assured her it was within the coverage area, and she wanted to know why they were having some difficulty getting a good cell-phone signal out of the prison.”

(NPR also reports that a Maryland state senator got a cell-phone call from an inmate complaining about prison conditions!)

Henson noted, speaking of friendly prison guards, that a cell phone, being metal, can’t get past a detector, so a corrupt guard is allowing each one inside.

Give the Time story a further look; I've just summarized it.

Henson has more on the phone calling reform ideas here.

And, back in 2007, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was already worried about BlackBerries, not just cell phones.

Oh, if you want an unvarnished look inside TDCJ, try The Backgate, a blog by TDCJ staff. It’s so renegade it’s even pro-union!

Time vs Time on Sotomayor

Does Time magazine not have a managing editor anymore? Or has the Internet basically castrated the powers of such a person at what is theoretically a weekly newsmagazine?

At Time, Karen Tumulty says Sotomayor WILL get a tough Senate fight: “Indeed, a fight is a political inevitability.”

(Sidebar nutbarrery: Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network calling the current SCOTUS “liberal activist.”)

Anyway, in contradistinction to Tumulty, Time’s Mark Halperin predicts smooth sailing for Sotomayor.

So, which is it?

And, in a broader, more philosophical question, are more magazines of news and opinion going to become more like this – little more than quasi-freelancers under one roof?

The politically potent Sotomayor choice

Earlier, I blogged about how Obama may have boosted his Hispanic vote percentage for 2012 by as much as 5 percent over 2008 with his Sonia Sotomayor choice.

Let’s just say its 3 percent.

What’s that mean, electoral-vote-wise?

Well, California is totally in the bag. But, it’s not expected to gain any electoral votes. Nevada, up 1 after the 2010 Census, in estimates, will go more strongly for Obama.

But, overall?

Texas should gain three House seats after the 2010 Census, according to Election Data Services. Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Florida will be among other gainers, with one seat each. Great Lakes-bordering New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are each expected to lose one seat, among various states, with Ohio possibly losing two and Illinois maybe losing one.

And, the possible electoral effect?
If these changes had been in place in 2008, Barack Obama's margin over John McCain in the Electoral College would have been 10 votes smaller.

But, that’s if nothing changes on vote percentages.

On my theory, Arizona becomes very competitive. (Remember, no McCain on the GOP ticket, either.) A safer Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico let Obama move more of his Southwest focus in 2012 to the Grand Canyon State, perhaps enough to take it. Arizona, with 11 EVs after the new Census, wipes out those 10 electoral votes plus 1. And Nevada gives him one more. So, he actually could easily gain 2 EVs.

Texas becomes perhaps as close as 5-percentage-point difference competitive. That's close enough to force a GOP candidate to sweat it out there, and perhaps enough to force Rick Perry into the national picture, as either Prez or Veep candidate for the GOP.

That said, there are Hispanics and there are Hispanics. Republican-leaning Cuban-Americans are unlikely to identify with Sotomayor anyway, so Obama gets no help in Florida. And, non-Cuban Caribbean Hispanics may be more favorable to her than Mexican or Central American ones, meaning the “bump” in Nevada or Arizona for Obama may not be too big.

At the same time, if Obama’s choice boosts Hispanic turnout, since that leaned 2-1 for him a year ago, he doesn’t need 5 extra percentage points of Hispanic support to benefit.

So, two electoral votes; three easier states. GOP has to break at least a little more sweat on Texas while trying to regain Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana.

And, swing-state Missouri, though it does not have a large Hispanic population, has just enough, and was just close enough in 2008, that it would be leaning slightly Obama.

A definite gain.

And, with more Democrats than Republicans defending Senate seats in 2012, a gain with down-race coattails, too.

Start running GM bankruptcy clock – for 18 months

It’s now May 27 and General Motors’ bondholders have officially rejected its debt-for-ownership swap.

And, while the General claims talks are ongoing, that is just for show; less than 10 percent of bondholders accepted its offer.

Given the size of GM, the complexity of its problems, the somewhat dubious nature of the “bad GM” and “good GM” take on “bad bank” ideas (after all, Team Obama refused to do that, so far, with banks), the lack of a buyout partner (unlike Chrysler) and more, I really don’t see a GM bankruptcy as being anything close to a “quick rinse,” because I don’t see it as being anything close to “structured.”

And, I am not alone:
Analysts said GM’s bondholders had tipped the company toward a near-certain bankruptcy that would rank as one of the largest and most complex reorganizations in U.S. history.

“I think the exchange offer was really a transparent attempt to blame bondholders for the bankruptcy rather than to accept responsibility for years of mismanagement and failure to anticipate things that should have been understood,“ said Richard Tilton, a restructuring analyst at Covenant Review.

So, was this deliberate? Perhaps:
“I think the task force made that hurdle so high, they wanted them to go into bankruptcy, they see that as the solution,“ independent auto industry analyst Erich Merkle said on Tuesday.


I predict GM will not come out of bankruptcy, assuming it goes in, before the end of 2010.

And, the “bad GM” idea? Who’s going to pay to liquidate those assets? Uncle Tim Geither’s Honest Used Pontiacs? If Timmy Geithner says “us,” Obama’s going to have huge pressure to dump him.

Besides, has anybody even priced all this? Nooo, the government is simply pledging to take a larger chunk of GM without any guarantee that the industrial policy of Barack Obama is much more than, err... “voodoo economics.“

Meanwhile, there could be plenty of economic winners in a GM bankruptcy.


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May 26, 2009

Prop. 8 has Federal court challenge – will it get bounced?

Wasting no time, Ted Olsen and David Boies, who squared off against each other in Bush v. Gore nearly nine years ago, filed federal suit, and already did so last Friday.

The Advocate notes:
The attorneys argue that relegating same-sex couples to domestic partnerships instead of granting them full marriage rights is a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It sounds great, but a number of states have domestic partnerships on the book and nobody’s ever filed federal suit there. (State suits, different matter.) Since the California Supreme Court specifically kept intact already-performed gay marriages, I don’t see where the two clients of Olsen/Boies can get legal standing.

A federal district court, I would think, would say that marriage was a matter of state law and boot this case in 30 seconds. Now, if the plaintiffs were married in, say Massachusetts, then moved back to California after the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, and now had reasonable belief that their marriage could be in jeopardy, they could certainly sue under the “full faith and credit clause.” But that is neither substantive due process nor equal protection.

Beyond this reason, a federal court could argue in another way, since the right to gay marriage once existed in California, and already codified marriages are not being undone, the federal government has no business intervening to rectify a personal choice not to get married before now.

That said, the suit claims “relegating” the two sets of plaintiffs to domestic partnership violates equal protection and due process. I don’t know if that angle, and that word, is enough for a federal court, versus a state that has domestic partnerships and has never allowed gay marriages, or not. It seems a pretty thin reed from this educated, analytical layperson’s angle.

Also, if Olsen and Boies have felt the way they have for some time, why didn’t they consider a suit in one of those other domestic partnership states? Surely somebody has contacted Boies, at least.
“For a long time I’ve personally felt that we are doing a grave injustice for people throughout this country by denying equality to gay and lesbian individuals,” Olson said in an interview with The Advocate. “The individuals that we represent and will be representing in this case feel they’re being denied their rights. And they’re entitled to have a court vindicate those rights.”

Agreed, but I still do not think, as smart, and as backgrounded in constitutional law, as you and Boies are, you can get standing for your clients.

So, that said, I think the duo has a better chance in a state outside California, because the domestic partnership idea's never been challenged in federal court, just at the state level.

That said, substantive due process was how gay sexual rights were staked out in Lawrence. But, the court's moved right since then, albeit the Lawrence ruling of 6-3 leaving Alito for O’Connor as a “disposable” vote — IF Kennedy would vote the same as he did on Lawrence. And that is certainly no given.

The ACLU and many gay rights groups worry that it’s a risky strategy, too, on any possible SCOTUS vote.

Another issue: are Boies and Olsen legal spotlight hoggers.?

Texas voter ID bill dead?

Or, so says Texas House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam, calling on the House GOP to accept that fact and move on.

That said, this shows what a difference a new Speaker can make. If we still had Kid Craddock in place instead of Joe Straus, he'd probably have Dunnam staked to an anthill or something.

Of course, the first graf is true only if the House does not suspend its rules for consideration of Senate bills: Dunnam saidthat's likely, but voter ID still won't make it past a load of other bills.

Unless...

Straus allows the GOP to "call the question" on bill after bill. Dems hope that isn't the case, but want more assurance.

Update: The demise of Voter ID now seems official, barring one more possible hurdle: Lil Ricky Perry calling a special session, as he’s threatening, if the Lege doesn’t pass a windstorm bill.

GM settles with UAW; bondholders hold out

A United Auto Workers healthcare trust fund will get 17.5 percent of General Motors’ common stock, along with preferred stock and a note – if the General stays out of bankruptcy.

Most of its hourly workers will get a buyout offer, reportedly better than the last one.

GM also is taking back control of five Delphi factories.

Whether this all is enough for GM to get bondholders to accept their own deal by midnight tonight is still very much up in the air. If it’s no deal, then it’s down the road to bankruptcy. Where the UAW deal would then stand, I don’t know. I’m guessing that, since the UAW has backed far enough off its starting point, it might survive.

If GM does go bankrupt, somebody is guaranteed more work for sure – a legion of bankruptcy lawyers.

Sotomayor as Obama's 'unsafe' SCOTUS choice?

It's clear that, strongly conservative bomb-throwing aside, Sonia Sotomayor is actually about as liberal as ... well, as the man who nominated her.

And, if you truly believe President Barack Obama is that much of a liberal, I've got some Arizona swampland to sell you.

First, from a SCOTUSblog review on civil cases, she's fairly thin on First Amendment issues

I quote:
First Amendment - Speech: Sotomayor has considered First Amendment issues relatively infrequently.

And:
Abortion Rights: Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights...

And, she's not that good, at least vis-a-vis the executive, on civil liberties/privacy:
In two cases involving requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Sotomayor wrote an opinion that declined to order the release of the requested information, explaining that she did not want to “unreasonably hamper agencies in their decision-making.”

That said, the cases that ARE on her relatively thin resume aren't very encouraging.

Interesting that SCOTUSblog doesn’t even mention the Niehoff case (PDF), yet another of those cases where judges chip away at free-speech rights of minors at school.

And, it gets worse.

At least some religious conservatives are playing her up on issues such as churches’ freedom from some labor law issues, which the White House itself is trumpeting.

For those reasons, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is concerned.

Even without a serious political battle, it's clear Obama could have done better.

And, speaking of politics, this pick is probably, to be blunt, worth 5 percentage points among Hispanic voters in the 2012 presidential election.

It's also clear that, despite anything he may say to the contrary in days ahead, this was a "demographics" nomination.

More on Sotomayor as 'safe' SCOTUS choice

Contrary to my plea to go for real diversity to replace David Souter, President Barack Obama went with the clearly ‘safe’ choice of Sonia Sotomayor.

That said, I would put Sotomayor at B/B-minus range for what she brings to the court, on an early reading.

Why, you may ask?

First, re a SCOTUSblog review on civil cases, there's not much on her on some of the "burning issues," such as "presidentialism," politely called "executive privilege."

I quote:
First Amendment - Speech: Sotomayor has considered First Amendment issues relatively infrequently.

And:
Abortion Rights: Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights...

Also, beyond Riverkeeper, she's not had much on environmental law.

And, she's not that good, at least vis-a-vis the executive, on civil liberties/privacy:
In two cases involving requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Sotomayor wrote an opinion that declined to order the release of the requested information, explaining that she did not want to “unreasonably hamper agencies in their decision-making.”

And, that's not all.

Interesting that SCOTUSblog doesn’t even mention the Niehoff case (PDF), yet another of those cases where judges chip away at free-speech rights of minors at school.

And, it gets worse.

At least some religious conservatives are playing her up on issues such as churches’ freedom from some labor law issues, which the White House itself is trumpeting.

For those reasons, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is concerned.

She's not as much a stealth candidate as Souter, but I stand by the idea that she's relatively thin in her rulings.

She's OK, but, we all know Obama could have done better. (If he didn't mind a bit more of a fight, but not THAT much more.)

Cal Supremes do as expected

How the California high court can justify its logic behind upholding Prop. 8, yet upholding the validity of gay marriages already in place, I have no idea. But, it has.

Obama makes the ‘safe’ SCOTUS choice

Contrary to my plea to go for real diversity to replace David Souter, President Barack Obama went with the clearly ‘safe’ choice of Sonia Sotomayor.

The Senate GOP, unless it’s reaching for new heights of stupidity, cannot mount any more than “token” opposition (pun intended) to a person both female and Hispanic unless it really wants to drive in the ditch. And, contra Jeff Sessions, it can’t realistically stall confirmation past its August recess.

And, yes, this does/did steal the news thunder, at least a bit, from the California Supreme Court.

That said, I would put Sotomayor at B/B-minus range for what she brings to the court, on an early reading.

Someone who actually would have TOTALLY fit my request? Glenn Greenwald.

Specifically on Sotomayor, re a SCOTUSblog review on civil cases, there's not much on her on some of the "burning issues," such as "presidentialism," politely called "executive privilege."

I quote:
First Amendment - Speech: Sotomayor has considered First Amendment issues relatively infrequently.

And:
Abortion Rights: Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights...

Also, beyond Riverkeeper, she's not had much on environmental law.

And, she's not that good, at least vis-a-vis the executive, on civil liberties/privacy:
In two cases involving requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Sotomayor wrote an opinion that declined to order the release of the requested information, explaining that she did not want to “unreasonably hamper agencies in their decision-making.”

And, that's not all.

Interesting that SCOTUSblog doesn’t even mention the Niehoff case (PDF), yet another of those cases where judges chip away at free-speech rights of minors at school.

She's not as much a stealth candidate as Souter, but I stand by the idea that she's relatively thin in her rulings.

She's OK, but, we all know Obama could have done better. (If he didn't mind a bit more of a fight, but not THAT much more.)

Will AfPak be Vietnam for Obama?

E.J. Dionne raises just that question in the larger context of Obama’s apparently ongoing attempts (Dionne is being charitable here, IMO) to straddle the two chairs of centrism and liberalism.

Fear of losing trials real reason for ‘indefinite detention’

Glenn Greenwald, aided by a letter poster, nails it. Here’s Obama’s own Assistant Solicitor General, Neal Katyal, last year:
Any trial system … might result in short sentences for or the acquittal of a dangerous terrorist. In ordinary criminal trials, guilty defendants often go free because of legal technicalities, government inability to introduce probative evidence, and other factors beyond the defendant's innocence. In terror trials, these factors are exacerbated by the difficulties of getting information from the place of capture, classified information restrictions, and stale and tainted evidence.

The possibility of acquittals or short sentences is a problem for terrorist trials.

Obama the constitutional lawyer certainly knows this, which makes him more despicable on the issue. And he lied about all of this in a questionnaire last year.

In light of all of this, the take of David Souter’s SCOTUS replacement on presidential powers could be huge. In short, Judge Wood good on the issues, Solicitor General Kagan not, other favorites unknown.

May 25, 2009

How about an atheist on SCOTUS? A gay?

Per Robert Barnes, it’s true that, beyond race and gender, today’s Supreme Court is still very homogenous.

Want to diversify it?

Name an atheist, President Obama.

If that’s a bit too much, name someone who’s neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Like a Green.

Or, since you may make your announcement today, the same day that the California Supreme Court will announce its collective wisdom on Prop. 8, how about the first openly gay person on the court?

That said, read Barnes’ article for yourself to see how weak of tea the mainstream media is serving on this issue.

Barnes thinks a state university grad on SCOTUS would be expanding the diversity. Well, technically, it would. Probably, so would naming someone who spoke fluent Pig Latin.

Hell, how about a gay atheist who also went to State U.?

I dunno if he went to State U., but ... Someone who actually would have TOTALLY fit my request? Glenn Greenwald.

(CNN does better on its diversity story, getting gays in there, but nary a word about an atheist for the High Court.)

US refuses to speed up climate efforts

The EU as well as China and India are asking, so this isn’t just an issue of developing nations wanting a competitive edge. But, while the EU has already pledged a 20 percent cut of 1990 carbon-dioxide levels, the US still won’t go beyond 3 percent, and the Obama Administration seems determined to kick more serious efforts down the road.

True, the Obama Administration’s new CAFÉ standards may help, but only if you get the American driving public to buy those cars. Again, I say, contra Meteor Blades the Kossack and others, we need to raise the gas tax.

Oh, and conservatives’ bullshit that it would wreck our manufacturing? What manufacturing? You outsourced much of it already, along with neolib Dems, through “free trade” agreements.

When poets attack

Wow, backdoor e-mails over sexual harassment charges and more in the contest to be elected Britain’s top poet. Never get in an argument with someone who prints sonnets by the barrelful, eh?

Like a Phoenix from the ashes or Bubble 2.0

I guess there’s a sucker born every minute indeed, or else one who moves to the Valley of the Sun that often. A mix of Phoenicians, smaller-level spec buyers and professional real estate investment groups think Phoenix can best overcome its massive housing bubble through spec buying of houses. (Four of 10 buyers are absentee.)

Call me crazy, but, this is indeed fighting fire with fire, in a state that will probably dry up in 20 years anyway.

Obama, flip-flops, straw men

No, those aren’t beach sandals he’s wearing, when he supports military commissions, back-burners Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and so forth. Guess the MSM honeymoon is winding down.

Meanwhile, whenever you hear Obama say, “There are those who say,” a straw man is just around the corner.

May 24, 2009

What is Twittereze for ‘eff-wad’?

Because, I’ve picked one up, a person claiming to be Joseph Weizenbaum.

If you’re not familiar with that name, among his accomplishments, Weizenbaum created a computer program called ELIZA.
Driven by a script named DOCTOR, it was capable of engaging humans in a conversation which bore a striking resemblance to one with an empathic psychologist. Weizenbaum modeled its conversational style after Carl Rogers, who introduced the use of open-ended questions to encourage patients to communicate more effectively with therapists. The program applied pattern matching rules to the human's statements to figure out its replies. (Programs like this are now called chatterbots.)

This Twitterer is acting like ELIZA, which, for the people never duped into believing an actual counselor was in the next room over, was a pain in the ass.

And, since Weizenbaum himself has been dead for a year, this Twitterer is a pain in the ass indeed.

Mullen reads from Gates playbook on DADT repeal

Hmm, sounds like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen cracked the hymnbook of his civilian boss, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. That’s because because Mullen said, like Gates several weeks ago, that President Barack Obama has too much on his hands to get rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell .

Well, hell. Obama could get involved in wars all the time as a dodge, per Mullen’s reasoning.

Or, he could do like toady press secretary Robert Gibbs said last week, and do what Obama does on any matter requiring leadership — punt to Congress.

The morally bankrupt Samuelson on Social Security

After the latest report by Social Security and Medicare’s trustees, Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson, in no surprise, is calling for their bankruptcy.

If Jon Neilson et al are serious about moving Newsweek in a more liberal direction, firing Samuelson would be a good indicator of that.

Max Baucus: The man who would reform healthcare

According to this in-depth profile by the Post — and contrary to a good deal of previous reporting — the Montana senator and Senate Finance Committee chair still hasn’t even 100 percent ruled out single-payer.

Your nut graf is in the form of a pull quote:
“I’m sick and tired of being the maintenance senator, the extender senator,” he said in his spacious corner office on Capitol Hill. “Here, we’re doing something. It's holistic, it’s our health-care apparatus. We don’t even have a system in America, really, and the idea is to get some structure, some meaning. You add it all together, and it's strategic. It's fun. A lot of senators want to participate in it, and groups do. They know that the train is leaving the station. There's a sense of inevitability here.”

I’m not sure where the “holistic” train is moving (please don’t say blank-check coverage for Sen. Orrin Hatch’s belovedly “holistic” Utah supplements industry), but the full story makes clear Baucus is seriously wrestling with the issue.

Guess who Silvio’s bringing to dinner?

The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has physical taste in women (pic at link), even if they’re nearly 50 years younger than him. Assuming this is a relationship, I wonder when it started and what sort of statutory rape law Italy may have.

Bush-Israel had backdoor settlements deal

News of the fact that the Bush Administration had an unannounced deal with Ariel Sharon, negotiated by (shock me) neocon Elliott Abrams, to allow some Israeli settlements to continue to be built in the West Bank, is surely going to up Bibi Netanyahu’s intransigence level with Barack Obama.

Obama undercutting Prop. 8 noisemaking?

Latest word is that President Barack Obama plans on unveiling his SCOTUS nominee as early as May 26. Of course, at noon Eastern time that day, the California Supreme Court is supposed to announce its Prop. 8 ruling.

Of course, the folks on the Golden State bench might actually like Obama running some flak like that for them.

New Yorkers tougher than ‘cowboy’ Montanans

At least when it comes to paranoia about incarcerated terrorists. Or, maybe senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are worried most of all about the real terrorist – Dick Cheney.

Chrysler may just Turin it around with Fiat

Four years ago, GM paid Fiat $2 billion for the privilege of not buying it. Two years ago, Fiat became profitable. Now, it wants to buy GM’s European Opel subsidiary, after taking over Chrysler.

Meet Sergio Marchionne, the man who turned Fiat around. Can he do it?

I’d say a qualified “yes.”

Team Obama practicing ‘renditions lite’?

It sure sounds like it. Except in these cases, there’s no intermediary transfer step.

We use our intelligence gathering in Pakistan and Iraq, then let them make the arrests and go from there, even though we have a good idea what their treatment will be like. (Witness al-Libi’s alleged “suicide” in a Libyan prison.)