June 20, 2009

Is Iran about to break open?

Roger Cohen, a sympathetic observer, and an American journalist with a fair degree of familiarity with the country, says it’s a potential yes.

From what I’ve read about other revolutions, such as 1917 Russia, when national police get antsy about doing their dirty work on crowds, yes, you are approaching a turning point. (In the March revolution, after a day or so, the Cossacks started getting reluctant to enforce too much discipline.)

But, with that national analogy, remember there was a half-successful at best 1905 revolution, too.

Anyway, with the police, what can happen, from the way I see it, is that, whether consciously or not, officers individually start making calculations of the likelihood of a full-blown revolt, followed by the likelihood the revolters will take revenge on them personally. When those thoughts get enough of a foothold, police unit/squad cohesion starts breaking down as it becomes "every man for himself."

Sully insists Islam religion of peace – wrong

Well, Andrew Sullivan got that one wrong in his Iran live-blogging round-up. He gets something else half-right, noting Tweets are provisional, but without saying Tweets can be rumor-mongering, ether unwittingly or wittingly spreading urban legends, etc.

Point is, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, all three are neither “religions of war” or “religions of peace.”

Beyond finding admonitions to both war and peace in the Quran, we can do the same in the other two world religions.

The Tanakh has Isaiah talking about “bending swords into plowshares,” but another prophet later talks about “bending plowshares into swords.” Per a quote by Jesus, the temple is allegedly a “house for all nations,” but, earlier, King Saul is told to till all the Amalekites — men, women, children and even livestock.

In the Christian New Testament, Jesus, in one Gospel, tells Peter to put his sword away at the Garden of Gethsemane, after he cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. But, earlier in that same account, he asked his disciples how many swords they had.

Elsewhere, he tells his listeners, “I came not to bring peace but division.”

And, as Islam had its jihad, Christianity had its Crusades. And Israel has religious Jews pushing settlements with new vigor, like Avigdor Lieberman.

Bottom line?

The three simply are religions, the youngest of them 1,500 years old, all coming from tribalist roots whose values systems almost make Pop Evolutionary Psychology sound true.

And they, and their Kool-Aid drinkers, label them as “religions of peace” as needed for external public relations, while not-insignificant minorities in all three push the “religions of war” side externally against the other two, or internally about their own “crusades” for “religious corporate communications,” also as needed.

Oh, and you bet your ass I'll be using the fake Photoshopped book cover in the future.

Another GOP hypocrite can’t keep his pants on

Hello, Nevada Sen. John Ensign, with the extra angle of being hypocritical toward members of one’s own party by demanding the resignation of former GOP Senate colleague Larry Craig.

Politico has details; Ensign was boinking a female staffer, then paid her off when he reconciled with his wife after some sort of separation. Staffer’s hubby later, allegedly, wanted some big dinero from Long John Ensign.

Of course, Ensign started his hypocrisy against Bill Clinton in 1998, while a Congressman running against Sen. Harry Reid. as Think Progress notes.

And, he did NOT call for fellow Senate GOP adulterer to resign in 2007.

So, here’s how sex works for the GOP.

Extramarital heterosexual sex is OK for the GOP.

Gay sex is not OK at all.

Extramarital heterosexual sex is NOT OK for Democrats. (Or “others,” if Bernie Sanders ever gets busted.)

And, since Ensign is a Pentecostal, a member of the “holy roller” Foursquare Gospel church, maybe he can (or maybe he will) claim demonic possession.

Not just the affair, but the hypocrisy within the party, has probably killed your presidential hopes not only for 2012 but beyond.

(For more snark along these lines, click either the “Republican sex hypocrisy” or “GOP Pants Watch” tags.

Update: On the blackmail angle, I guess two jobs courtesy of Ensign weren’t enough payout for Doug Hampton, husband of former Ensign mistress Cindy Hampton. It’s nice to see the good old Christian political value of “greed” joining “lust” and “hypocrisy” at their finest.

Second, Ensign has now dropped the blackmail angle, instead noting Doug Hampton approached Fox News. But, the Las Vegas Sun has several questions related to that, including how Ensign found out about Doug Hampton’s approach to Fox, and what sort of angle Hampton put on that.

In an additional bombshell, he says Ensign had a forced sit-down with a group of his Senate GOP peers over the matter; he lists Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn by name.

Update 2, June 20: And now, we’re back to the extortion angle. I guess “lying” is joining the list of good old GOP Christian values, too.

Oh, and on the NYT op-ed pages, Gail Collins gets some snark at Ensign as would-be presidential candidate.

Update 3: Note to COTG visitors and others. Mark Sanford hit the radar screen after I submitted this John Ensign post. Just click this “Sanford” tag link, though, and you can read away to your heart’s content.

Cow belches get climate bill ‘pass’

Rural Democrats have blocked the regulation of cow belches of methane, which may contribute as much as one-quarter of U.S.-produced greenhouse gases, from the Waxman-Markey climate bill.

OK, that does it.

Throw this piece of crap in the Dumpster rather than pass it, followed by shoving it down our throats as something revolutionary. If rural forestry wants to be credited for a carbon sink, then ranchers definitely have to pay up.

Don’t like it? Raise cows with less grain and more grass to reduce their methane belches. Or switch to hogs or chicken, both of which require less feed per pound of added weight and so are at least somewhat more environmentally friendly. And, stop signing on the dotted line of Big Ag, who is really behind this.

Published on ESPN!

Well, not "published" in that sense, but the limerick I e-mailed to Jason Sobel's U.S. Open liveblog:

As rains poured anew at Bethpage
Conspiracists fell into black rage.
Would Tiger not win?
The golf fix was in!
Methinks they lost a big betting wage.

Time: Four endgames on Iran misses No. 5

Time has a thought-provoking speculative article four ways the Iranian political tussle could play out. It rightly notes none of the main actors want to destroy Iran’s current political structure, for example.

But, it misses option No. 5.

That would be for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former President Akbar Rafsanjani to cut a deal behind the backs of both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and opposition presidential candidate Mir Mousavi.

Ahmadinejad has no particular loyalty to Khamenei, despite the latter’s pre-election quasi-endorsement of him. Rafsanjani has no special loyalty that I know of to Mousavi; rather, I think he’s just seen him as a stalking horse to his goal of unseating Khamenei.

If the two can line up enough support among both the Council of Guardians and the Academy of Experts, Ahmadinejad has control of the Basij to nullify any lingering Mousavi street protests after Rafsanjani sells him down the river.

Amnyay, take a look at the Time story and judge for yourself if a scenario like mine is plausible, then, if it is that likely.

Update: True, Ahmadinejad attacked Rafsanjani during the election, over his foreign policy as well as alleged opulence. But, politics can always make strange bedfellows. And, I don’t think I”ve yet exhausted the possibilities.

Rafsanjani might cut a deal with Khamenei, for that matter, that could involve a new election, or other possibilities.

To use an old foreign policy word, I think the situation in Iran is very “fluid” right now.

From comments, “uninformed” shows he’s anything but:
I agree that there are more than 4 possible scenarios. Another, real possibility, is Mousavi and Rafsanjani simply back down. I think both have too much too lose in a full scale revolt. A sick variant of this, is this was the plan all along. An agreement to reform, but only after the revolutionary element could be weeded out from the reform camp. Mousavi publicly distances himself from those who revolt, leaving a smaller group isolated, allowing the government to cull them. After the dust settles, the 2 major and 2 minor players "mend" fences.

Definitely agree these are all possibilities.

Also agree that the four major/semi-major players probably would like to at least be started on a resolution process by Monday.

Update: The Guardian’s four-option scenario, though DOES have a Rafsanjani takeover as one of the options. As often is the case in the world of foreign affairs, the British MSM thinks more broadly than America’s.

Will Obama make bad bill better w-tough regulators?

That’s the hope of WaPost financial columnist Steve Pearlstein, who like Joe Nocera and many others, laments the gutlessness of Obama’s financial “reform” bill.

But, as for Pearlstein’s hope:
The good news is that, at the end of the day, it will matter less how the boxes are moved around the regulatory org chart than the quality of the people put in them. It is no coincidence that this crisis developed while the Fed, the Treasury and other agencies were headed by people who were responsive to Wall Street and believed deeply that markets should never be second-guessed by government bureaucrats.

The best way for Obama to change that and avoid the next crisis is to appoint tough and independent regulators who understand that their role is to protect markets from their own excesses while protecting their agencies from being captured by the companies they are meant to oversee.

It’s highly forlorn, as I told him in an e-mail.

Obama’s hand-picked Secretary of the Treasury, whom he stood by through tax issues of a fairly serious nature, slept at the wheel while his banking BFFs threw the matches to cause Wall Street to burn while he was NYFed head.

His inherited Federal Reserve chair had enough separation time from Greenspan to do in private, at least, more than he actually did.

His fiscal czar pushed Congressional Dems to agree to sign off on the deregulatoin bill that led to this mess 11 yrs ago.

We’ve already seen whom Obama will appoint, which makes his bill all the more worrisome.

And THAT is the bottom line.

Well, no, the bottom line is interest-group e-petition drafters need to give it up, and start Green Party activism and awareness e-mails ASAP, instead of continuing to enable the left-hand side of the two-party duopoly.

Gordo: ‘I could walk away tomorrow’

That’s how British Prime Minister Gordon Brown starts a new Guardian interview, his first since the so-called “Hotmail coup attempt” by Labour backbenchers.

But, “could” does not mean “will.” While Brown acknowledges he has communications problems at times, he insists he is sticking around that that Labour under his leadership will win the next general election. As part of that, he says his stimulus measures’ effect will be visible by then.

Guardian offers 4 Iranelection endgames

The Guardian’s four-option scenario, unlike the one of Time magazine I blogged about a couple of days ago, DOES have a Rafsanjani takeover as one of the options. As often is the case in the world of foreign affairs, the British MSM thinks more broadly than America’s.

Here’s the details:
1 - Happy ending
To widespread surprise, the hardline Guardian Council conducts a thorough recount of votes, as ordered by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and decides, amid much embarrassment, that there should be a new election. Mir Hossein Mousavi wins. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepts defeat.

2 - Damp squib
The partial recount ordered by the Supreme Leader concludes Ahmadinejad won a clear victory, although by a narrower margin. Despite lingering suspicions of foul play, the opposition is forced to accept the verdict. Ahmadinejad, in bad odour with the Supreme Leader for provoking demonstrators, moderates his line on policy issues. Mousavi vows to fight again.

3 - Confrontation

The Guardian Council's partial vote recount and investigation into electoral fraud are rejected by the opposition. Demonstrations spread and intensify. Security forces respond with increasing force, … Purge of reformist leaders, intellectuals, students and journalists continues. Leaderless demos gradually peter out. Ahmadinejad steps up anti-western rhetoric. Resumed protests at a later date considered highly likely.

4 - A second revolution
An insider cabal of senior clerical and establishment conservatives challenges Khamenei and forces his resignation after a vote in the Assembly of Experts. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani is elected in his stead and orders an investigation into the actions of Ahmadinejad and other senior members of the regime. Hardliners rally round the president while reformists demand new elections. Amid growing instability, Iran's unique Islamic/secular system of governance appears in danger of collapse.

Not just the last one, but all four show a breadth of thought, and more anticipation of developments in Iran, than did Time.
Per Steve Clemons’ analysis in the Washington Note, No. 1 is off the table with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continuing to refer to President Ahmadinejad, while threatening a crackdown on further protest.

No. 2 is hardly more likely, so, we’re on to 3 and 4. A LOT of the clerical leadership is worried about No. 4’s last line, but, will anybody find an agreement along the first lines of No. 4 to make it work?

My suggestion is that the Council of Guardians gets expanded; Khamenei keeps his seat as “Supreme Leader Emeritus” and gets to name a friend or two of his. At the same time, Academy of Experts oversight is made clear.

Along with that, Ahmadinejad agrees to put Mousavi in his cabinet, as well as to, per No. 2, moderate himself a bit, at least. Mousavi and his backers agree — if he gets the foreign ministry, to keep a daily oversight on Ahmadinejad taking a more moderate stance, at least for public consumption, on foreign affairs.

What would be the result of this?

“Reform” in Iran would certainly get new window dressing, but little new actual work; appearances, not action. Mousavi would use the foreign ministry to gear up for his next presidential run. By that time, Rafsanjani would “ease” Khamenei out of his official emeritus position. And, albeit more subtly, Rafsanjani would, like Khamenei, engage in presidential kingmaking.

Shah mat!

(Note, late Saturday, US Central time, I will have some more analysis on these lines.)

Suicide bomber attacks Khomenei shrine

Eight people were reportedly injured in the blast, part of a larger Saturday of unrest in Tehran and elsewhere, even though crowd sizes were reportedly down.

Texas Speaker Straus wants bipartisanship

Well, short of Democrats retaking the House with votes to spare with a speech like this, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus stands a good chance of keeping his position in 2011.

The Dallas Morning News said he sounded “an almost Obama-esque theme of unity.”

Birds didn’t evolve from dinosaurs?

A number of legitimate evolutionary biologists say, instead, the class Aves and the dinosaur members of class Reptilia’s subclass Diapsida evolved separately from a common ancestor. Their latest claim of support? The fixed nature of the femur in birds; Aves being the only class of vertebrates to be so structured.

Interesting.

Obama personal MD wants single-payer insurance

Enough said, despite both AMA booing of Obama and The One’s political weak knees on this, as on many other issues.

June 19, 2009

Are Tehran Twitterers also myth-spreaders?

Well, Robert Fisk, in his latest dispatch engages in shooting down inside-Iran rumors,
First, he shoots down, or at least challenges, Rumor No. 1: That a student was killed at the start of this week, shot in a protest:
(A)n Iranian woman muttered to me in an office lift that the first fatality of the street violence was a young student. Was she sure, I asked? “Yes,” she said. “I have seen the photograph of his body. It is terrible.” I never saw her again. Nor the photograph. Nor had anyone seen the body. It was a fantasy. Earnest reporters check this out – in fact, I have been spending at least a third of my working days in Tehran this past week not reporting what might prove to be true but disproving what is clearly untrue.

Next? The ongoing claims that Iranian cops are really Hizbullah. Fisk, who has lived in Beirut since 1976, and covered the Middle East pretty much continually since that time, ought to know, and he does.
They don't even look like Arabs, let alone Lebanese. The reality is that many of these street thugs have been brought in from Baluch areas and Zobal province, close to the Afghan border. Even more are Iranian Azeris. Their accents sound as strange to Tehranis as would a Belfast accent to a Cornishman hearing it for the first time.

Next, he shoots down the myth that Basij militia thugs had taken over presidential candidate Mir Mousavi’s HQ. Yes, uniformed men were there, he says: Mousavi’s own security company.

Next, he challenges the fantasies of the likes of Juan Cole, and others who claim that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had lost all support from poor urban dwellers:
When I visited the slums of south Tehran on Friday, for example, I found that the number of Ahmadinejad supporters grew as Mousavi's support dribbled away.

In other words, Ahmadinejad has had the support of the poor all along. Juan Cole can keep on deluding himself about that, but at some point, I think he recognizes that he’s going beyond self-delusion.

It’s easy to see how, in the herd mentality of a place like protesting Tehran, especially under-30 protesting Tehran, how Twittering could become a driver for rapidly expanding urban legends.
Are Tehran Twitterers also myth-spreaders?

Punditry on Iran from serious to vapid – read Fisk!

Jeffrey Goldberg at Atlantic has a good overview of how the situation in Iran has bent or broken some traditional American political categories on foreign affairs stances. I don’t totally agree with his take on realism, but it’s still a good piece.

One of the people he gives a bit of a flogging is fellow Atlantic contributor Andrew Sullivan. And, Sully delivers, right on cue. Like his post of Thursday claming “this is the central event of modern history right now.”

Ahh, such prophetic foresight! And, with it, the breathless idea that:
A. Mousavi really is that different;
B. That the election was, for sure, rigged, and rigged badly.

Sully also makes unwarranted assumptions vis-à-vis other world events. For example, Pakistani citizens taking matters into their own hands against the Pakistani Taliban earlier this week. Sully, are you sure that’s less important? Or North Korea’s plans to launch yet another missile? Or, something that may happen next week that we don’t even know about?

If you really want vapid, though, Joe Klein says head for the dynamic neocon duo of Krauthammer and Wolfowitz.

And, if you really want serious, your must-go starting point is Robert Fisk of the Independent who, unlike Sully, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole of liberal darlingdom, Wolfowitz, or Krauthammer, is an actual reporter, not a columnist, and has spent more than 30 years living in and reporting from the region.,

He’s a realist with generally somewhat liberalist sympathies and knows what the hell he’s talking about. His latest dispatch engages in shooting down inside-Iran rumors, such as claims that Iranian cops are really Hizbullah.

Next, he challenges the fantasies of the likes of Cole:
When I visited the slums of south Tehran on Friday, for example, I found that the number of Ahmadinejad supporters grew as Mousavi's support dribbled away.

In other words, Ahmadinejad has had the support of the poor all along. Juan Cole can keep on deluding himself about that, but at some point, I think he recognizes that he’s going beyond self-delusion. (Cole is approaching the point of PC liberalism, foreign policy division, in my book. Sully is just approaching his normal fatuous stupidity which his support for Obama disguised for six months.)

That said, Cole does have a good guest poster, former Reuters Tehran bureau chief Jeffrey Lyons, offering an overview of the likely mindset of many senior Shi’ite clerics at this time.

Perry kills full-day pre-kindergarten

Gov. Helmethair, aka Lil Ricky Perry, has released his final list of vetoes.

Besides killing HB 130 to fund full-day pre-kindergarten programs across the state, he also decided to get tough on crime by killing a Royce West bill, officially HB 3128 that would have allowed “statutory” sexual criminals not to have to register as sex offenders. He also vetoes SB 223, also with a West connection, which would have allowed a person completing deferred adjudication to be eligible for a pardon.

“Interestingly,” the Morning Snooze, in its story, while mentioning the “Romeo and Juliet” sex offender bill getting vetoed, says not a word about the full-day pre-K bill.

While the tough-on-crime vetoes may help him a bit with the GOP base against Kay Bailey Cheerleader, we’ve already seen that teachers and other educators can sway races, per a couple of state House races last year.

If he does beat Hutchison in the GOP primary, he just gave himself a deeper road to hoe in the 2010 general election.

Complete list of Perry final actions is below:

======

From: "Governor's Press Office"
Subject: Gov. Perry Announces Final Decisions on Legislation

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
R i c k P e r r y


AUSTIN ­ Gov. Rick Perry today announced his final decision on major
legislation passed by the 81st Legislature.

³I am proud of the accomplishments lawmakers made this session and thankful
for their solid leadership,² said Gov. Perry. ³However, there was some
legislation that, in its final form, would have done more harm than good to
our citizens. After thoroughly and thoughtfully reviewing all legislation, I
am confident that the final outcome of all bills passed will move Texas in
the right direction, equipping our state to answer future challenges and
providing better opportunities for all Texans.²

Gov. Perry signed legislation allowing public schools to purchase electronic
textbooks (HB 4294), and issued an accompanying executive order (see link
below to view) supporting the State Board of Education¹s (SBOE) role in the
electronic textbook approval process.

³This legislation will further propel Texas schools into the 21st century
and ensure that our students have access to the most up-to-date information
available in each subject,² said Gov. Perry. ³For districts that are ready
for the transition to technology, it will provide the flexibility to choose
an alternative to traditional textbooks to effectively educate students,
bringing technological advances to the classroom and enhancing our
children¹s learning environment.²

The governor also announced his veto of legislation that would create a new
pre-kindergarten education grant program (HB 130); however, a similar grant
program already exists. Consequently, Gov. Perry encourages the Texas
Education Agency to ensure the $25 million appropriated for HB 130 be used
to expand the number of students served by the existing pre-kindergarten
grant program which could reach 21,000 more students (a 305 percent
increase) over the next biennium than would have been served under HB 130.

Gov. Perry also vetoed SB 1440, which sought to clarify narrow and uncertain
guidelines set by the Gates v. Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory
Services (DFPS) court case. However, the bill goes too far. It creates
uncertainty about how DFPS would take children into custody which could
potentially infringe on the rights of parents and guardians.

³This court-created uncertainty is real and must be addressed, however I¹m
concerned SB 1440 overreaches and may not give due consideration to the
Fourth Amendment rights of a parent or guardian,² said Gov. Perry. ³I am
directing DFPS, to study the effect of the Gates decision on the ability of
the department to appropriately enter a residence and, if necessary, to
transport the child for interviews in a neutral location. I am also
directing the department to develop and recommend statewide procedures to
follow when seeking court orders without compromising the rights of parents
and families.²

To view the governor¹s executive order, please visit:
http://governor.state.tx.us/news/executive-order/12646/

To obtain statements regarding the governor¹s decisions, please visit:
http://governor.state.tx.us/news/bills/

The following bills and resolutions were filed without the governor¹s
signature:

HB 770 by Howard,Donna
Sponsor: Jackson, Mike
Relating to ad valorem tax relief for an owner of certain property,
including a residence homestead that is rendered uninhabitable or unusable
by a casualty or by wind or water damage, and to a restriction on the
authority to bring an action to remove a house that is partially located on
a public beach as a result of a meteorological event.

HB 1275 by Kohlkorst Sponsor: Hegar
Relating to the authority to impose a county hotel occupancy tax.

HB 3076 by Deshotel Sponsor: West
Relating to a parenting and paternity awareness program used in the health
curriculum for public schools.

SB 575 by Davis, Wendy
Sponsor: Shelton
Relating to the time for dissolution of crime control and prevention
districts and to certain taxes imposed by such districts or by fire control,
prevention, and emergency medical services districts.

SB 1219 by Averitt Sponsor: Deshotel
Relating to a parenting and paternity awareness component of the health
curriculum used in public high schools.

SB 1681 by Hinojosa Sponsor: Gallego
Relating to requiring the corroboration of certain testimony to support a
criminal conviction.

SB 1717 by West Sponsor: Davis,
Yvonne
Relating to regulation of owners of developments supported with low income
housing tax credit allocations and of housing sponsors of certain
multifamily housing developments.

HCR 237 by Hilderbran
Sponsor: Fraser
Designating the Brady World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-off as the official
Texas State Goat Barbecue Championship Cook-off.

HCR 282 by Coleman
Instructing the enrolling clerk of the house to make corrections in H.B.
3485.

The following bills and resolutions were vetoed by Gov. Perry:

HB 103 by Brown, Fred
Sponsor: Patrick, Dan
Relating to health benefit plans for students at institutions of higher
education and the operation of certain health benefit plans through student
health centers at certain institutions of higher education.

HB 130 by Patrick Sponsor: Zaffirini
Relating to an enhanced quality full-day prekindergarten program provided by
public school districts in conjunction with community providers.

HB 518 by Kohlkorst
Sponsor: Van de Putte
Relating to programs to provide student loan repayment assistance for
certain correctional officers, for certain speech-language pathologists and
audiologists, and for certain mathematics and science teachers.

HB 821 by Leibowitz Sponsor: Watson
Relating to the sale, recovery, and recycling of certain television
equipment; providing administrative penalties.

HB 1293 by Eiland
Sponsor: Ellis
Relating to the sale and marketing of life insurance and annuities.

HB 1457 by Hochberg
Sponsor: Duncan
Relating to procedures concerning verification of certain information
submitted in a voter registration application.

HB 2142 by McClendon
Sponsor: Carona
Relating to the promotion of toll projects by the Texas Department of
Transportation.

HB 2656 by Miller, Doug
Sponsor: Duncan
Relating to the composition of the board of trustees of the Teacher
Retirement System of Texas.

HB 2692 by Rodriguez
Sponsor: Watson
Relating to certain municipal requirements regarding sales of residential
properties in certain areas.

HB 2820 by Chisum
Sponsor: Wentworth
Relating to contracts by governmental entities for professional services
relating to geoscience and landscape architecture.

HB 2888 by Martinez
Sponsor: West
Relating to financial assistance administered by the Texas Department of
Housing and Community Affairs.

HB 3148 by Smith, Todd
Sponsor: West
Relating to exempting certain young persons who are convicted of an offense
involving consensual sex from the requirement of registering as a sex
offender in this state.

HB 3202 by Bonnen
Sponsor: Jackson
Relating to authorizing the transfer of certain real property held by the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

HB 3346 by Farabee
Sponsor: Averitt
Relating to gas utilities and gas storage facilities.

HB 3481 by Veasey
Sponsor: Harris
Relating to the expunction of records and files relating to a person's
arrest.

HB 3485 by Coleman
Sponsor: West
Relating to certain county, municipal, district, and other governmental
functions, procedures, powers, duties, and services, including certain
criminal procedures.

HB 3515 by Dunnam
Sponsor: Carona
Relating to the creation of the offense of failure to report barratry and
solicitation of employment.

HB 3983 by Rodriguez
Sponsor: Watson
Relating to the imposition of property taxes on the residential homesteads
of low-income and moderate-income persons.

HB 4068 by Gonzales
Sponsor: Hinojosa
Relating to the conduct of judicial proceedings and transaction of other
essential judicial functions in the event of a disaster.

HB 4685 by Homer
Sponsor: Eltife
Relating to the County Court of Titus County.

SB 223 by West
Sponsor: Thompson
Relating to allowing a person who successfully completes a term of deferred
adjudication community supervision to be eligible for a pardon.

SB 434 by Wentworth
Sponsor: Bolton
Relating to the establishment and operation of a public transit
motor-bus-only lane pilot program in certain counties.

SB 488 by Ellis
Sponsor: Harper-Brown
Relating to the operation of a motor vehicle in the vicinity of a vulnerable
road user; providing penalties.

SB 686 by Davis, Wendy
Sponsor: Orr
Relating to the installation, maintenance, or operation of natural gas
pipelines on state highways and highway and county road rights-of-way.

SB 978 by West
Sponsor: Elkins, Coleman
Relating to the creation and financing of public improvement districts.

SB 1206 by Hinojosa
Sponsor: Edwards
Relating to the release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice of
certain inmates who complete a rehabilitation program.

SB 1343 by Hinojosa
Sponsor: Gonzales
Relating to the formula funding for public institutions of higher education
for certain credit hours that do not count toward a degree.

SB 1440 by Watson
Sponsor: Madden
Relating to orders and judgments rendered by associate judges in child
support and child protection cases and to the investigation of child abuse
and neglect.

SB 1760 by Watson
Sponsor: Branch
Relating to the administration of the Texas Save and Match Program to assist
qualifying beneficiaries under the state's prepaid tuition plans and college
savings plans and to the treatment of a beneficiary's assets under prepaid
tuition plans and college savings plans in determining eligibility for
student financial assistance and other assistance programs.

SB 2141 by Wentworth
Sponsor: Hughes
Relating to the statute of repose for engineers and architects.

SB 2169 by Ellis
Sponsor: Alvarado
Relating to the establishment of a smart growth policy work group and the
development of a smart growth policy for this state.

SB 2325 by Hinojosa
Sponsor: Madden
Relating to the confidentiality of certain information pertaining to the
State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

SB 2468 by Gallegos
Sponsor: Coleman
Relating to the postemployment activities of certain local government
officers in certain counties; providing a penalty.

SB 2558 by Gallegos
Sponsor: Thompson
Relating to the promotion and marketing of alcoholic beverages.

HCR 161 by Burnam
Sponsor: Davis, Wendy
Granting John Cook permission to sue the Benbrook Water Authority.

HCR 252 by Thompson
Sponsor: Averitt
Requesting the governor to appoint a Governor's Task Force on Horse and
Greyhound Racing.

SCR 59 by Jackson
Sponsor: Taylor
Granting MBP Corporation permission to sue the Board of Trustees of the
Galveston Wharves.

Khamenei charges Rafsanjani corruption not true?

The NYT buries what is a key portion of its story on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s reaction to protests over the Iran presidential election, and buries it at the bottom story.

But, it confirms what I’ve been saying for a week.

By Khamenei raising the issue of former President Akbar Rafsanjani, his rival to take over as Supreme Leader of Iran, and corruption, even if to deny it the Gray Lady makes clear this is ultimately not about the presidential election, but beyond that.

And, if members of his family are being detained, too, the crackdown is spreading.

Your dog does NOT look guilty

Instead, any “guilty” look you think that pet has is all in your head.

In fact, new research shows two reasons for that.

One is mankind’s evolved tendency to anthropomorphize surrounding parts of the world.

The second is situation-specific.

It’s called “projection,” in the psychological sense. Owners who just scolded or admonished their dogs were more likely to think they looked “guilty.”

So, while dogs do have some amount of intelligence, pet owners, stop claiming they have complex emotional states. As I have blogged before, they don’t.

You thought US ideology screwed up Iraq aid?

That would be nothing compared to the way BushCo free marketers screwed Afghanistan. This is an issue where I have sympathy indeed with the Obama Administration. Whether it can reverse what has developed into seven years of mistrust, I don’t know. But, that’s the stone, hopefully not of Sisyphus, that it faces.

Did Iran election debates make May poll worthless?

I suppose that claim of an anonymous Iranian student, writing in a New York Times op-ed, saying May’s Terror Free Tomorrow poll’s findings of a strong Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lead were wiped out by Mir Mousavi’s performance in post-debate presidential debates on TV.
By the Wednesday before the election, Mr. Moussavi was backed by about 44 percent of respondents, while Mr. Ahmadinejad was favored by around 38 percent.

Is the Iranian electorate that volatile? Quite possibly. Did Mousavi do that well in the debates? I don’t know, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that angle raised; Juan Cole didn’t mention it, when he dissed the TFT results.

Also, “Shane M.” doesn’t mention the source of his polling claims. It, too, is something new to my reading. That doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate, but to throw out specific numbers without a specific source doesn’t boost his credibility in my eyes.

That said, he is right about two things. Many Westerners hold a 30-year-old image of Tehran, and nobody knows what will happen next.

On those two lines, that’s why I continue to look for what Robert Fisk has to say, because he has a current image of Tehran, and as for nobody knowing what will happen next, that includes “Shane M.,” who isn’t guaranteed to know why things are happening now the way they are.

Anxiety and panic relief without the addiction

German researchers believe they have discovered an anxiolytic drug without addictive qualities of benzodiazepines such as Valium.

Now, anti-depressants can help a chronic tendency toward anxiety, but, for a person with new, and acute, anxiety symptoms, their four-six week latency period rules them out. XBD173, though worked within one hour of administration, in tests.

Sahara going solar-powered?

Well, basically, there’s no company headquartered in Saharan Africa that can do that, but Germans can, and have laid out detailed plans. Of course, none of the countries of the Sahara have any major national parks there, which makes the transmission lines, as well as the solar power plant siting, easier than in the United States.

Healthcare has always been rationed

Dave Leonhardt does an excellent job of putting paidto this ongoing Republican/conservative lie.

He’s right in that facing this fact openly could get us to really reform healthcare. Unfortunately, “what’s the matter with Kansas” GOP voters will, once again, probably be deceived by some GOP bait-and-switch.

All that glitters in a vending machine is gold

And now, literally, thanks to a German entrepreneur who wants to offer goldbugs the convenience of vending machines.

All Thomas Geissler needs to do now is get Ron Paul to be his American spokesman.

Taking DOMA orders from Barney Frank

That would be LawDork blogger Chris Geidner, who, like Rep. Frank says, in Salon, that that vicious and stereotyping brief Obama’s Justice Department wrote in defense of the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act actually isn’t that bad.

Compared to what? The Bush Administration whose DOJ never actually got to write such a brief?

You must factor in that, per his bio, Geidner is a Democratic blogger. He’s worked, either paid or as an intern/volunteer, the White House, the Senate and two Ohio attorneys general. So, he’s not disinterested in maintaining a Democratic Party line.
javascript:void(0)

‘Mousavi is the Obama of Iran’ – do jokes abound?

So claims Iranian filmmaker and Mir Mousavi spokesman Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who compares Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to George W. Bush.

Is this an “insert joke here” moment? Or, an “irony alert” moment? If enough of Mousavi’s “rallies” are actually controlled by Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani, then actually Mousavi is in the position of George W. Bush, December 2000.

And, for Makhmalbaf to claim Ahmadinejad’s 2005 election (also) had massive fraud? Let’s not forget that it was Ahmadinejad vs. Rafsanjani in the final runoff in 2005.

So, again, behind Mousavi, arguably, we have the voice of Rafsanjani.

Back to the more humorous side, I suppose real reformers in Iran, and real liberals in the U.S., might actually agree with Makhmalbaf’s comparison, namely how close to each other the political leaders in the two countries actually are on many issues.

Wolverines continue to expand

Months after the sighting of a wolverine, the same one, in California for the second year in a row, radio tracking has revealed one in Colorado for the first time in 90 years. This illustrates the need for large, multistate ecosystem environmentalism like the Greater Yellowstone Corridor, as a male wolverine can require a 500-square mile territory.

Second, with global warming, how secure is the wolverine in moving south into Colorado?

Third, as an avid hiker and nature photographer, I dream of a glimpse, even a camera shot. So far, in my Lower 48 treks, this and the woodland caribou are the only two mammals above 25 pounds to escape my eye in the wild. (True, the only mountain lions I’ve seen in the wild were while driving.)

June 18, 2009

EPA gets earful about Midlothian cement plants

The Environmental Protection Agency held the first of a scheduled set of public hearings on its proposed new cement kiln air pollution rules here in Dallas-Fort Worth, and got plenty of comment, especially from southside residents who live closer to Midlothian’s wet-process cement kilns.

At the same time, representatives from national and Texas-level cement-makers groups said concerned residents were undercutting President Obama!
“Simply put, the prospects of implementing the rule as proposed directs capital away from cement production in the United States, constrains supply, and will work at cross-purposes to the president's explicit stimulus plan,” Andy O’Hare, vice president for regulatory affairs of the Portland Cement Association, said.

He and others claimed US cement makers simply couldn’t meet the new rules and would have to move all their business to China.

Right.

If you DID move, because cement is so heavy, you’d move to Mexico, not China, so we know you’re lying right there.

As far as costs, let’s try this instead:
The EPA said complying with the rule in 2013 would cost cement industry between $222 million and $684 million per year. At the same time, the agency said, it would save between $4.4 billion and $11 billion a year in health costs and other related expenses, including the avoidance of an estimated 620 to 1,900 premature, pollution-related deaths a year.

Also, I found it interesting that nobody from TXI, or any other individual cement plant in Midlo, bothered to speak. The chickens hid behind trade-group skirts, I guess.

Also, in addition to cost-saving efforts in general, makes you wonder if this is part of why TXI has cut back on its suburban newspaper educational support advertising. They recognize PR is not going to hold back this wave, perhaps

More nuttery by Audrey of Palin Deception

The conspiracy theorizing at Palin’s Deceptions not only gets thicker, but profit-driven now, as well.

And, a new feature, to boot!

“Team Truthers”? Probably about as close to the “truth” as the self-labeled “9/11 Truthers” and other conspiracy theorists. (We could just call them “Audrey’s storm troopers.”)

And, Audrey's selling merchandise, she has the money to hire a PI now! I told her that nearly six months ago, shortly Tripp Palin’s birth, when I suggested that, if she really believed this, she’d hire a private investigator. She made excuses about the cost, about how most PIs in Alaska would be afraid of Sarah Palin, etc.

Well, Audrey, you now have the money to hire a PI, with all the regular posters at your blog rushing out to buy stuff at your store.

Last excuse removed. Hire a PI and let the chips fall where they may. Stop playing around the edges.

But, she won’t.

Bristol Palin giving birth to Tripp Palin at full term shot down Audrey’s primary angle, that Bristol was the real mother of Trigg Palin. In talking about Sarah Palin and homeschooling, where Audrey actually does find an acorn or two, we have this “tell”:
f Tripp was born at or close to full term in late December, 2008…

Emphasis is mine, but it’s clear Audrey has latched on to this tar baby and refuses to let go, even as the truth bites her in the ass. I’ve noted how she misinterprets pictures, uses tighter-fitting clothing to “show” pregnancy and more, and other distortions of evidence.

And, the fact that bloggers like “Gryphen” count themselves among her close cyberfriends and vice versa show that the same Kool-Aid that gets served at the Palin household in Wasilla is apparently distributed around the state.

But, that’s the flip side of a lot of the blogosphere; it does get pretty incestuous, unless you’re OK with being a contrarian.

And, it’s almost enough, though not that close, to actually make someone sympathetic to the Whore of Wasilla.

The BS of Obama ‘financial reform’

Once again, Just.Another.Politician.™ isn’t wearing very many clothes, as Joe Nocera shows us in detail. In comparing Obama’s work to FDR’s, he says:
Obama plan is little more than an attempt to stick some new regulatory fingers into a very leaky financial dam rather than rebuild the dam itself. Without question, the latter would be more difficult, more contentious and probably more expensive. But it would also have more lasting value.

He then goes on to note that, on the surface, the plan looks impressive and broad-ranging. Gee, isn’t that what would could have said – and I did say – about Obama the first Tuesday of November 2008?

And, beyond my snark, he notes just what’s wrong with the Geithner-Summers-Obama fiscal “regulation” plan:

The Obama plan accepts the notion of (some banks) being “too big to fail.”

In other words, the plan fails to fix what it was allegedly drafted to fix!
Or take derivatives. The Obama plan calls for plain vanilla derivatives to be traded on an exchange. But standard, plain vanilla derivatives are not what caused so much trouble for the world’s financial system. Rather it was the so-called bespoke derivatives — customized, one-of-a-kind products that generated enormous profits for institutions like A.I.G. that created them, and, in the end, generated enormous damage to the financial system. For these derivatives, the Treasury Department merely wants to set up a clearinghouse so that their price and trading activity can be more readily seen. But it doesn’t attempt to diminish the use of these bespoke derivatives.

In other words, the plan fails to fix the second-biggest problem it was allegedly drafted to fix!

The bottom line?
If Obama hopes to create a regulatory environment that stands for another six decades (like Glass-Steagall), he is going to have to do what Roosevelt did once upon a time. He is going to have make some bankers mad.

Fat chance in hell of that. He’s a neolib Democrat whose presidential campaign imbibed at the hog trough of bankers and financiers to the tune of opting out of public campaign financing.

We’re getting Obama’s lipstick on a pig in spades.

Update: Krugman finds further problems, above all, a failure to reform the financial ratings agencies; remember, it was the incestuous relationship between folks like Moody’s, on that side, and those like AIG and major banks on the others, that gave ridiculous ratings to jumbled-together CDOs, etc.

Post cans Froomkin

Wow.

Dan Froomkin’s White House blog was surely the most-read news/politics blog the Washington Post had.

So, why? Per Greenwald, the WaPost basically can’t tell us yet. Not coherently.

Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander confirms Post editors’ incoherent non-commenting.

Charles Krautschmuck probably just had an orgasm.

Sosa, Canseco and steroid laughs

First, it looks like Sammy the Bull Sosa brought his recent “outing” from Major League Baseball’s 2003 trial year of theoretically anonymous steroid testing on himself.

Hey, Sammy, if you’re going to be both hypocritical and arrogant enough to attribute all your numbers to “perseverance” while you “calmly wait for induction into the Hall of Fame,” you’re asking to be outed.

And, I’m with Tim Brown in the rest of his column. Hats off to the anonymous Galahad who’s outed Sosa, and, I presume, A-Roid earlier this year. Two down, 102 to go.

Meanwhile, self-admitted cheat and America’s Original Juicer™, Jose Canseco, is suing MLB and the players’ union because he’s been, I quote “ostracized” for his roiding.

And, really going for the yucks, he’s going to have Sammy the Bull and Rafael (No, that Viagra isn’t actually for gonad-shrunken ME) Palmeiro join him, he hopes.

PETA – get a clue on flies

The animal rights overkillers want President Obama to get a fly-trapping “fly motel” instead of killing them.

I have a better idea. Let’s rip the silicone bags out of Pamela Anderson's tits, and swat flies with them on live TV.

For Westerners believing Mousavi’s truth claims

An alleged confidential letter from the Iranian minister of interior, Sadeq Mahsuli, to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claims Mir Mousavi nearly quadrupled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vote total in the June 12 Iranian presidential election, and that Ahmadinejad came in third behind Mehdi Karroubi. Karroubi, like Mousavi, claims to be a reformer, yet also claims to support Supreme Leader Al Khamenei, showing just how meaningless Western-type labels are in Iran. (Are you listening, Juan Cole and Sully?)

Speaking of meaningless, in the story, Robert Fisk wonders, naturally, if if’s a forgery. If so, he says it’s the biggest one in Iranian history since Bud McFarlane and Ollie North went to Iran in 1986 on stolen Irish passports with forged information.

SCOTUS gives criminal suspects another whack

The Supreme Court says crminals do not have a guaranteed right to DNA testing. So much for the constitutional idea of confronting your accusers in court if they present physical evidence against you.

Excellent breakout of Iran’s political background

Again, not coming from a wide-eyed person here in the U.S., but from Dieter Bednarz at Der Spiegel. He, as have I in previous blog posts, focuses on the Khamenei-Rafsanjani square-off, as the key to what’s happening now.

Also contra wide-eyed Juan Cole and Andrew Sullivan claims of vote fraud, when Mir Mousavi claims not just that he won, but that he got nearly 70 percent of the vote, he comes off as just as unbelievable as any other battlers in the current Iranian political scene. And, Cole and Sully continue to lose credibility the longer they continue to keep Mousavi on any sort of pedestal, even if a small one, and the longer they ignore Rafsanjani’s camel’s nose in the tent.

Obama gutted some regulatory ideas long ago

Well before President Barack Obama presented his financial regulation reform package to Congress earlier this week, he gutted a number of ideas, some under pressure from Congress, others under lobbying pressure. Among the latter were actually some good ideas, like a national insurance regulator.

People here in Texas know that the Texas Department of Insurance, when it comes to homeowners’ insurance, is a paper tiger. Not surprisingly, as the story notes on page 3, property and casualty insurance company lobbyists argued against the idea.

Team Obama claims it was dropped because insurance issues were peripheral to the financial meltdown. Really? Wasn’t AIG an insurance company?

Team Obama also claims it didn’t cave in to lobbyists. Really? You just did.

June 17, 2009

Barmey Frank supports Obama anti-gay DOMA brief

WTF? But he does, right here on his Congressional website. And you people wonder why I advocate for Green Congressional as well as presidential candidates.

Fisk – Ahmadinejad won, but not by that much

Robert Fisk, esteemed historian and journalist, reporting from Tehran, says Mahmoud Ahmaninejad probably beat Mir Mousavi by about 53-37 percent, with the rest for the other two presidential candidates.

He also says he’s freely traveling around Tehran and nobody’s stopped him.

Take that, Sully and Juan Cole. Let's be real. Fisk his reported on the ground from Iran and other danger zones in the Middle East for decades. Although he hasn't said what the Guardian has about Western liberal pundits and wishful thinking, Fisk is a realist. Combine that with his nose to the ground, and I am sure he's more likely to be right than Sully or Cole.

So, if Fisk, and Leverett, and others, are right, that leads us back to cui bono, to use the old Latin.

And, again, I come back to the same name: Ayatollah (and former president) Akbar Rafsanjani.

A deeper look at Obama regulatory reform

The Washington Post notes that President Barack Obama’s proposed financial regulation reform has five main points:
The proposals would greatly increase the power of the Federal Reserve, creating stronger and more consistent oversight of the largest financial firms.

It also asks Congress to authorize the government for the first time to dismantle large firms that fall into trouble, avoiding a chaotic collapse that could disrupt the economy.

Federal oversight would be extended to dark corners of the financial markets, imposing new rules on trading in complex derivatives and securities built from mortgage loans.

The government would create a new agency to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.

And the administration would increase its coordination with other nations to prevent businesses from migrating to less regulated venues.

You can go to the story, read further, and see how the Post unpacks this all, but let me give you my take first.

1. More power to the Fed? The agency that always claims it’s a private entity when Fed chairmen go before Congress? The agency whose regional banks ARE private entities, as Tim Geithner so “ably” demonstrated as NY Fed head, fiddling while his best buddies burned the financial sector? No, and no thanks.

2. Congress to dismantle large firms? The same ones that give Members of Congress large financial contributions? Ain’t gonna happen, to quote Poppy Bush. Besides, Congress has already got some of this power. Right now, it could force Geithner to go the “bad bank” route on TARP etc., if it wanted to, but it hasn’t. Beyond the Congressional hog trough, it’s called “presidentialism.”

3. Federal oversight in dark corners? Theoretically, federal agencies could already have been doing more of this on their own. And, regulate derivatives? We’ll see the fine print and loopholes in final regulation.

4. New agency for mortgages, etc.? Again, per point No. 3, NOT NEEDED. Instead, in good neolib style with the particular Obama twist, we get new regulatory alphabet soup rather than using existing tools. And, somewhere at the bottom of the hay and shit piles, there’s not a Reagan pony, but another Obama czar on this baby.

5. More coordination with other nations? When it has dragged its feet on the European Union calling for tighter financial regulation this spring? Hah!

Don’t believe we will get real regulation tightening out of this baby.

Oh, and The One claiming speed is important? Why, so Congress doesn’t look more closely? Will this be another bill whose final version is NOT placed on the WH website before you sign it?

Obama sold nobody at AMA speech

Least of all, did Obama’s speech to the American Medical Association convention sell the American public on his plans. Survey says doctors have a 15-percentage-point lead on Obama in public trust for healthcare reform.

Obama half loaf for gay cpls after kick in the teeth

Less than a week after Obama’s Department of Justice defended the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act by comparing gay marriage to incest and saying marriage was not a fundamental right, Obama now is offering a half loaf, or maybe a slice or two of day-old bread, by offering to partially extend federal benefits to gay couples. But, he won’t commit to health insurance parity because, as his DOJ said last week, that would cost money, and of course, gay couples have no right to cost as much as straight couples.

And, that’s the neolib bottom line. You’re just too expensive! (Of course, the NYT story runs flak for Obama by claiming it might take legislation on the healthcare issue. Yeah, right.)

And, it’s clear that even this is ultimately politically motivated, with the backlash from the DOMA brief causing a number of gay activists to uninvited themselves from a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

Single gene-depression link refuted

The original 2003 study claiming a single gene had a lot of responsibility for depression has been iffy for some time, now, but further research says it definitely doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

On the “popular front” level, what does this mean?

Well, several popular Americanisms (some of them not just pop-level but held by a certain segment of scientists) get the kibosh.

1. A hypermechanistic, technological view of medicine, with quick fixes either here today or just around the corner.
2. Something that’s already been on the ropes over other issues, the one-gene, one-behavior theory, gets another good, swift kick. (That’s at the scientific as well as pop level.)
3. A simplistic view of life in general held by most Americans hand in hand with American exceptionalism. There are no easy solutions to most mental health issues, and, perhaps that’s why, in the U.S., depression is on the rise.

Can you smell that smell?

Well, maybe not, and maybe not forever, if you used Zicam Cold Remedy. What’s the harm in homeopathics? Alt-medicine?

Plenty. Besides permanent physical damage, there is the damage to your wallet, and the damage to American regulatory capability.

Thanks, Orrin Hatch. Thanks, Tom Harkin.

Dallas should wait two years for job rebound

That’s the projection, complete with MSA regions map of the US, of this “eye-opener story on just how sluggish employment recovery could be.

But, take heart, DFW. It could be until 2014 for much of the subprime bubble’s ground zero, the LA-Las Vegas-Phoenix triangle. It could be longer than that for the auto collapse ground zero of southern Michigan and adjacent areas.

Here in Texas, if you’re looking for jobs sooner, it’s Austin, El Paso, Laredo or San Antonio. Houston’s the same as Dallas; other areas will be even slower.

June 16, 2009

Obama to junk thrifts office

As part of “improving” fiscal regulation, the Obama Administration plans to get rid of the Office of Thrift Supervision and eliminate the federal charter under which savings and loans operate.

What’s being touted? Not regulatory tightness, by The One, in a clear neolib manifesto:
“There is going to be streamlining, consolidation ... so that you don’t find people falling through the gaps,” President Barack Obama told reporters earlier on Tuesday.

“Whether it’s on the consumer protection side, the investor protection side, the systemic risks ... It’s going to be a much more effectively integrated system than previously,” he said.

“Streamlining” and “effective.” Nice neolib codewords for “regulation will be less, er onerous for the folks who give money to neoliberal Democrats like me.”

And, Reuters gets in on the act, talking about “regulatory overhaul” rather than re-regulation. It also grants somebody from Team Obama (Summers?) anonymity, without the catch phrase of “not authorized to speak” or the Beltway code words of how high in the administration this anonymous person is.

Be. Very. Wary.

Of course, this plan has to be approved by Congress. But, half of Democrats approved Summers’ junking of Glass-Steagall a decade ago with Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

One Texas Dem in Congress opposed war bill

Lloyd Doggett was the only Democrat in Texas’ Congressional delegation to vote against the $106 billion war bill. (I’m assuming, on the GOP side, that Ron Paul’s opposition was driven first and foremost by the IMF funding rider, not the war bill itself.)

Eddie Bernice Johnson, up here, is no surprise in her yes vote. Sheila Jackson-Lee becomes more of a disappointment, from years ago compared to now, all the time.

That said, fully one-third of Democrats’ slim 32 “no” votes on the bill, which passed 226-202, came from California. If all 51 Democrats who voted against the original version had held firm, it would have been defeated.

The limp and impotent “antiwar” Democrats who chickenshitted at the end include this:
“I want to support my president,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who changed her no vote to a yes.

Eff “the president.” What about the American people? What about more soldiers being pounded down a quagmire?

But, there’s still hope. Some Senators oppose another rider on the bill, the cash for clunker cars attachment, as being insufficiently rigorous on the mileage boost required for the new vehicle purchased with the clunker money.

Update: Maybe I was being too generous to Doggett, even. Seems his vote was more aboutGov. Helmethair’s use of Obama stimulus funds than anything else.

Yet more on Iran’s Rafsanjani angle

At The New Republic, Robert Baer says President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s attacks on former President (and ayatollah) Akbar Rafsanjani were certainly at the instigation of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That said, I think Baer overstates another item when he claims Iran is a military dictatorship and not a theocracy.

Yes, Khamenei may be a Cracker Jack or mail-order ayatollah, but he is one, and he heads a council of ayatollahs and other religious jurists that are Iran’s ultimate power source. It also seems to me that he’s trying to put lipstick on the pigs (non-halal bad pun warning!) of both Rafsanjani and opposition presidential candidate Mir Mousavi (indirectly).

So, while I critiqued Obama’s press statement yesterday as “blah, blah, blah,” nonetheless he’s probably right not to prematurely commit to one side in an internecine and even Byzantine power struggle inside Iran. (That said, his noncommittal yesterday WAS “blah, blah, blah.”

George Barack Obama continues nontransparency

This time, it’s the George Barack Obama White House, like its predecessor, refusing to release visitor logs despite court order.

Say it is so, Sammy – Sosa ’roided in 2003

Any serious baseball fan knows that Sammy Sosa was juicing, but the New York Times is now reporting he was caught in 2003.

And, shades of Roger Clemens a couple of years ago, but NOT Mark McGwire, Sammy the Bull swore to Congress in 2005, before his command of the English language suddenly failed him, that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.

That said, 2003 was the “trial” year for MLB’s PED-testing program, which was supposed to remain confidential, but the list of 104 positives eventually wound up in the hands of federal agents.

That’s what tripped up A-Roid, Alex Rodriguez, earlier this year. So, will Sammy the Bull regain enough English skills to say something?

And, another sidebar. As people, especially in Boston, wonder what’s up with David Ortiz, just a reminder that he and Sammy are fellow Dominicans; players from that island nation have an almost magnetic attraction to steroids, it would seem at times.

Oh, also, let’s not forget one other thing – Sosa’s connections to The Original Juicer™, Jose Canseco, via El Presidente Jorge Bush’s Texas Rangers.

And with Sosa, Clemens and Barry “Orchidometer” Bonds leading the potential 2013 Hall of Fame class ...

Shooting BRICs in Russia at the US

Bloomberg has the lowdown on how Brazil and India are teaming with China and Russia to do some economic muscle-flexing.

Highlights include continued discussion on non-dollar investments, already committing to a 2010 BRIC summit in Rio, and continuing to flex regional muscle, especially, Russia and China at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also met in Russia.

The appropriate DWI punishment for Donte Stallworth?

Reading about the Cleveland Browns’ receiver getting just 30 days of jail time for DWI manslaughter made me think of a more appropriate punishment.

Then I got it.

Thinking of how many NFL players “praise Jesus” after each touchdown, make Stallworth take off his helmet and say, “I drove while drunk and killed somebody” each touchdown he scores during his two years of house arrest.

And yes, there are some extenuating circumstances, like the victim, technically, jaywalking. Still, this is pretty much a free pass to get 30 days, plus two years house arrest that still let you play in the NFL.

That said, I am waiting to hear MADD weigh in.

Would non-athlete get 30 days 4 DWI manslaughter?

I kind of doubt it, even with a clean criminal background, but, if you’re an NFL player like Donte Stallworth, I guess different rules apply. True, he is getting two years’ house arrest, as well, but the story indicates that allows him to “work,” i.e., play in the NFL, the next two years.

Jake Tapper – poster boy for MSM decline?

I guess one advantage of Twitter is that the suck-up-itis of people like ABC’s White House correspondent Jake Tapper is confined to just 140 words, as his Twitter-view of John McCain attests.

Hell, all you have to do is look at the pompous, self-inflating photos on Tapper’s Twitter page wallpaper to see “the decline and fall of the MSM.”

Of course, the flip side is McCain’s semi-senile? semi-neocon? rants about Obama Administration policy toward Iran right now are confined to 140 words, too.

Twittering dotage of John McCain

I guess one advantage of Twitter is that stupidity, stereotypes, and half-baked foreign policy can only be uttered 140 words at a time, as Jake Tapper’s Twitter-view of John McCain attests.

Of course, the flip side is Jake Tapper’s suck-up-itis is confined to 140-word bursts, too.

It’s the Iranian economy, stupid!

That’s the real Iranian “driver” for many voters there.

Russ Douthat reminds us that, abroad, too, it’s the economy, stupid, and the economy really sucks in Tehran.

So far, though, unlike the 1930s, the world economic crisis hasn’t threatened democracy, he reminds us, but actually has boosted it in places like Iran. Or, at least, boosted the desire for it.

Not so fast on ‘alcohol is good for you’

Most those highly hyped studies that claim that? They don’t meat the scientific smell test, and, shades of Big Tobacco, they’re financed by the alcohol industry. That’s complete with paid-off scientists denying the research subsidies had any effect.

Obama to California – drop dead

Shades of 1976, eh, for those of you to remember Jerry Ford and New York. The Obama Administration officially told the state of California no on a request for special federal financial aid. (Please don’t call it a bailout.)

Yes, California is the nation’s largest economy.

That said, although Obama has set too many bad examples with bank and auto bailouts, he had to draw the line somewhere, and for the same reason his banking bailouts, especially, were bad. He had to force accountability somewhere, which he, Geithner and Summers certainly have not done with banks.

Sully ‘in bed’ with loverboy Barry?

No, as far as I know, Andrew Sullivan is not literally in bed with Barack Obama. We’ve seen more than enough of Obama’s stance on gay issues to say that (unless he’s running some huge repression by the American public), that that isn’t happening.

Figurately, though? Hell yes. Sully, a war-hawk conservative (do NOT call him an intellectual as part of that, because he isn’t; TNR and “The Bell Curve” prove that), was one of The One’s biggest conservative pundit “captures” last year.

And now? Sully’s apologetics for Just.Another.Politician.™ are getting almost as intellectually dishonest as Obama’s own promise-breaking.

Last time I visited Sully, he was apologizing for Obama’s Department of Justice staunchly defending the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act, to the point of linking to Lars Thorwald, a federal attorney, on Kos, who claims Obama was KEEPING a campaign promise, namely to restore the rule of law. (Sully later said Obama had broken (yet another) campaign promise, but still didn’t backtrack from the legal analysis support, including a later post saying that Lawrence Tribe (hey, didn’t you used to be a liberal law prof about 10 years ago) said the same thing.

The latest in rectal-cranial inversions? Sully lamely claims The One is right in uttering not a word of support for the opposition, on the grounds Ahmadinejad would use this to show Mousavi et al as Western pawns. His idea? Barry should wear a green tie.

Strange, Sully’s worries didn’t seem to be given a second thought in Berlin; Chancellor Angela Merkel called Basij thuggery “completely unacceptable.”

John Cole dashes more cold water on the “wear green” nonsense, hoisting Sully by his own petard in the process by saying it reminds him of warbloggers circa 2003, for their narcissism, among other things.

And, Sully has never had a narcissism deficit.

That all said, Sully’s been about as much a post-election disappointment as his love buddy. At least, if you actually expected him to use more of his intellectual powers in actually analyzing Obama.

If Rafsanjani is meddling in Iran, why?

Yesterday, I blogged here and here that former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani might be playing both ends against the middle in the discord and violence after Iran’s just-completed presidential election in an attempt to replace Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as head of the Council of Guardians

It certainly is a possibility. That said, did he set out to do this? I doubt it. But, opportunists usually have the biggest success in politics, as Napoleon said in other words.

As for the why?

I think Rafsanjani has had his eye on Khamenei’s seat for some time. Maybe he thinks he can’t get it by a democratic (within the Council) ousting of Khamenei while he’s still alive. And, since Rafsanjani is five years older, he can't he can’t afford to try to outwait Khamenei.

As for America’s best interests, since Rafsanjani is a former president, too, it might actually be WORSE for him to replace Khamanei.

June 15, 2009

Nothing different between 2005 and 2009 Iran elections?

That’s the bottom line of Flynt Leverett.

Leverett isn’t some crazy neocon with axes to grind, and he also has points. Ahmedinejad’s margin of victory? Almost exactly the same. Mousavi’s ethnicity? Ahmadinejad speaks Azeri fluently. And, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is Azeri.

That said, Leverett overlooks the key point of evidence against him — how could the Council of Guardians call the election so quickly when the country still uses paper ballots. On the other hand, pro-Mousavi pundits in the West generally overlook him claiming victory before the election was even done.

On the third hand, he’s right about multiple power centers, and his mention of Mousavi’s association with Ayatollah Rafsanjani reinforces my belief about who has the most to win from all this.

And, finally, Leverett is right about how much American liberal pundits are overreading how much different Mousavi would be as president vs. Ahmadinejad.

Obama booed? No honeymoon with AMA! Or Daschle?

The American Medical Association’s annual convention attendees booed President Barack Obama, when, in his speech to them, he refused to promise them more tort reform.

Strange; FOB and former Obama HHS choice Tom Daschle, says more federal tort reform (didn’t we have a round already, under Clinton) has to be part of the equation on cutting healthcare costs.

So, is this a classic, almost too-transparent, good cop/bad cop situation? A real disagreement? Obama and Daschle not reading from the same playbook? On the outs?

Obama on Iran – ‘blah, blah, blah’

In his press statement on the situation in Iran, Obama was at his platitudinous best/worst. He said he thinks democracy can still work, and didn’t mention either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad by name.

And, the following is not an-Obama specific concern.

When any U.S. President says he is “deeply troubled” or “deeply concerned,” odds are he’s really concerned about how to deftly avoid stepping in any pitfalls or snares.

Rafsanjani – playing both ends against middle in Iran?

This news story spells out the bottom line about who really might have the most to gain in Iranian post-election dissent, with this blog post by Allahpundit providing a very good big picture and background rundown. The real winner in this could be Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who, if the chips fall right, could replace Khamenei. That said “moderate seeing” Americans of today, no less than the Bud McFarlane’s of nearly 25 years ago, should recognize Rafsanjani is no bargain.

So, is Rafsanjani playing both ends against the middle?

It certainly is a possibility. That said, did he set out to do this? I doubt it. But, opportunists usually have the biggest success in politics, as Napoleon said in other words.

As for the why?

I think Rafsanjani has had his eye on Khamenei’s seat for some time. Maybe he thinks he can’t get it by a democratic (within the Council) ousting of Khamenei while he’s still alive. And, since Rafsanjani is five years older, he can't he can’t afford to try to outwait Khamenei.

As for America’s best interests, since Rafsanjani is a former president, too, it might actually be WORSE for him to replace Khamanei.

Iran – fraud still not proven

The pre-election Terror Free Poll, cited by the Washington Post, showed Ahmadinejad clearly leading among Iranians indicating a presidential preference.

But Juan Cole tut-tuts the poll, claiming many Iranians were too afraid to speak out.

Tosh, per the pollsters. Four of five people surveyed — not just four of five respondents — said they wanted to get rid of the Council of Guardians, the group of clerics headed by Grand Ayatollah Khamenei.

I’m with Ken Ballen of TFT; it’s likely Iranians wanted Ahmadinejad as best defender of Iran against the West. That’s kind of in line with my previous thought that many Iranians may have seen an Ahmadinejad vote as a chance to say Eff You to the West.

That said, Cole, in a later post, has more ammunition for the linearity of returns being questionable.

And, speaking of that, Sully lamely claims The One is right in uttering not a word of support for the opposition, on the grounds Ahmadinejad would use this to show Mousavi et al as Western pawns. His idea? Barry should wear a green tie.

Strange, Sully’s worries didn’t seem to be given a second thought in Berlin; Chancellor Angela Merkel called Basij thuggery “completely unacceptable.”

The Telegraph, in part of its op-ed comparing Obama in silence to a Trappist Monk, reminds us that Germany is Europe’s largest exporter to Iran, and yet Merkel still said what she did.

(And, that all said, Sully’s been about as much a post-election disappointment as his love buddy.)

Finally, as Allahpundit notes, in a very good “big picture” rundown, the real winner in this could be Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who, if the chips fall right, could replace Khamenei. That said “moderate seeing” Americans of today, no less than the Bud McFarlane’s of nearly 25 years ago, should recognize Rafsanjani is no bargain.

So, is Rafsanjani playing both ends against the middle?

Note: When I talk about "fraud," I'm talking as instigated by Khamenei, not by Ahmadinejad, as part of a larger coup effort.

Obama rejects single-payer healthcare

Well, there it is, in black and white.

Racism alive and well in SC GOP

A South Carolina GOP activist, on Facebook, compares a gorilla to Michelle Obama’s ancestors. He then apologizes, or offers what he claims is one, “If,” and nothing more, he caused any harm, then claimed it was in jest. Finally, he claims it was based on a statement of hers.

That said, what about Texas? Wouldn’t surprise me.

Hello, Peak Oil

If your eyeballs on the gas pump weren’t enough, the U.S. Department of Energy’s International Energy Outlook says, yes, Peak Oil is just around the corner. The report is significant for who’s saying it as well as what it says.

DOE’s Energy Information Agency has never signed off on Peak Oil-type predictions before. In fact, in the past, it’s been positively bullish on the medium-term future of oil supplies.

Alternative oil sources will likely exacerbate greenhouse gas issues, so more Canadian oil sands or Venezuelan tar oil isn’t a desirable answer.

Ahmadinejad was THIRD?

That’s what Iranian bloggers claim leaked poll results say. They allege not only did Mir Mousavi win, but reformist Mehdi Mwas second.

Dakotans gutting national healthcare

North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad says there’s not enough Senate support for a single payer option, while indicating nobody’s lifting a finger to change that.

Meanwhile, former South Dakota Sen., and former Obama HHS choice Tom Daschle, says more federal tort reform (didn’t we have a round already, under Clinton) has to be part of the equation on cutting healthcare costs.

Make up your recessionary mind, Krugman

Just days after being quoted in Bloomberg with the claim the recession would be ended by September, Paul Krugman tells the Guardian it could last 3 years; so, which is it?

He also warns that Germany is the China of Europe, only with German-level money, and holding a whole bunch of crappy CDOs. If he’s right, that poll I have about the Eurozone maybe needs some more “sooner” votes.

But, since we don’t know if he’s right or not about his various end-of-recession prognostications, he may not be right about the German economy, either.

June 14, 2009

Got your DTV yet? Gordon Sumner wants to know



Gordon Sumner, of course, being better known to you and I as "Sting."

Leon Panetta at CIA gets half a pass from Jane Mayer

Jane Mayer has a largely great piece on President Obama’s choice to head the spook shack.

After noting how Panetta has been a bit of a weathervane to his boss on issues such as accountability and transparency, Mayer has a great line:
America’s intelligence community is an incestuous one, making it difficult for a President to break with old ways of thinking.

All part of the two-party duopoly.

That said, Mayer has a clunker or two, like, “Obama’s message has been uncharacteristically muddled on the question of accountability” (emphasis added).

Nope, not uncharacteristic at all, Jane.

All in all, Mayer does a very good job of connecting dots from the recently released Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel torture memos and more, while looking at where Panetta sits right now.

That said, she has another clunker when she claims Obama “surprised” liberals by pressuring the British government to block release of various memos in the Binyam Mohammed suit.

Didn’t surprise me at all, Jane. Your definition of, or association with, liberals must not be quite as, well, liberal as mine.

Prius 3.0 a hit in Japan

In fact, the third generation of Toyota’s hybrid is a waiting list hit, giving the nation an economic boost with overtime work at car plants, battery factories, etc.

Coming now to the U.S. as gas prices continue to meander on the far side of $2.50/gallon, the flying wedge should do well here, too, especially if gas gets back over $3.

RIP Six Flags

The amusement park chain, which includes the site in Arlington, Texas, between Dallas and Fort Worth officially declared bankruptcy Saturday.

A restructuring plan is in place, but I have no idea how, or even if, the company can survive in an era of Wiis, digital TV and other home entertainment. That’s especially true in Texas, where all of that is indoors, in A/C.

Iran coup by Ahmadinejad against Khamenei?

In posting yesterday, I discounted what other commentators were citing as “proof” of elections rigged by Iran’s clerical Council of Guardians to get President Mahmound Ahmadinejad re-elected against former Parliament Speaker Mir Mousavi.

I referenced the Guardian’s Abbas Barzegar, who said Western pundits engaged in wishful thinking to the degree the Western press largely didn’t even report on the size of Ahmedinejad’s biggest rallies, including one that may have hit 1 million people.

Other analysts noted that, while Iran’s clerics have, in the past, simply refused to allow reformers to run in the first place, they normally haven’t rigged elections.

So, what about possibility No. 3 — a coup by Ahmadinejad against the Council and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

Steve Clemons gives it serious discussion.

The Nation, as linked by MideastAnalysis, has an in-depth report.

Actions such as concrete street barricades, the actions of the Revolutionary Guards and more, as well as Ahmadinejad’s tenuous-at-times relationship to the high clerics, this seems at least as likely as Khamenei rigging the election. Now, the coup would have been getting prepared in advance, of course, but how much? How much depth of support would a coup have?

And, per Clemons, is a counter-coup possible?

I would say as an attempt, it’s possible; as a success, not likely.

NYT runs out-of-date enviro news

The Gray Lady claims the world will get a new climate treaty at the end of the Copenhagen round of negotiations at the end of this year.

Untrue, in all likelihood, unless the NYT’s definition of “treaty” on climate matters is something with no hard-and-fast targets.

John Yoo can be sued for torture memos

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco said Jose Padilla can sue Yoo for “deprivation of Padilla’s constitutional rights.”

The Justice Department, that is the Obama Justice Department, representing Yoo, argued for dismissal of the suit. Although it hasn’t said so yet, you can bet it will appeal.

Hmm, is there also a connection, however tenuous, between this and Obama’s pledge to censor the Abu Ghraib 2.0 pix?

Now, will allegedly “liberal” Berkeley have the balls to give Yoo the boot, tenure or no?