June 27, 2009

Xn Right No. 1 on porn, preggers, divorces

Don’t wanna believe me? It’s all true, per the Census Bureau, the Guttmacher Institute and research studies. In the wake of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford joining Nevada Sen. John Ensign in the GOP Pants Watch brigade, the New York Times’ Charles Blow puts those findings in one convenient op-ed package. He uses the analogy of the original Clean Air Act of way back in 1963, with further development after that.

In order of headline subjects:
A study titled “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?” that was conducted by Benjamin Edelman, an assistant professor of business at Harvard Business School and published earlier this year in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that subscriptions to online pornography sites were “more prevalent in states where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality” and in states where “more people agree that ‘I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage.’ ” …

According to 2006 data from the Guttmacher Institute, red states accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest teenage birthrates. …

According to the Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract, states that went Republican in November accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest divorce rates in 2006.

So, could the next Republican offender to join the GOP Pants Watch at least have the courtesy of giving us the trifecta, by knocking up a 19-year-old not his wife while watching porn with her?

And, would that the urban legend about celebrity deaths, that “these things happen in threes,” were true and applied to self-inflicted political flameouts. (Monica Conyers is too small to count, and I’m focused on the Republican sex hypocrisy shtick right now anyway.)

Hmm, Sarah Palin wears the pants in her family anyway, right? Maybe she could have another affair.

Reviewed - Dave Cullen's "Columbine"

I don't normally write a book review this long, and, I don't normally post them on my blog (see my "Amazon reviews" link in my link list, but, if you go to Amazon and see some of the bogus reasons people are trashing Dave Cullen's "Columbine" there, you'll understand.

On storytelling, in case you've not read anything about the book yet, Cullen uses a movie director's "flashback" style, interspersing chapters from after the shooting with chapters from before, focused on Eric Harris's and Dylan Klebold's psychological development, criminal development, and planning for the attack.

The style works well here, in fair part because of Cullen's skill with it. Cullen is clearly a good journalist, in doing good research, as well as a good author, in gripping the reader, and at "moving," as separate story lines as well as interwoven, the "before" and the "after" sides of his narrative.

As I noted, he's a good journalist, too, and with a true crime story, and one as gut-wrenching and heart-breaking as this, the investigative side comes into play, too.

And, Cullen does that through his myth-busting.

Three main myths, he busts, and then gives more background on a sidebar myth busted elsewhere.

1. Harris and Klebold were NOT strongly bullied, and any such bullying they did suffer did NOT serve as a "trigger" or major contributory factor.

The fact is, the duo were themselves big-time **bulliers,** not victims.

Beyond that, a couple of people who have dissed this book here have particular reason to do so, related to this myth.

Randy Brown is the father of Columbine student Brooks Brown, who could best be described as a "frenemy" of Harris, perhaps? Harris made more than one terroristic threat toward Brown in the last year-plus before the attack, but literally saved Brooks' life minutes before starting to shoot by telling him to leave the school.

Because of what could well be described as Harris' bullying of his son, and the fact that Brooks wrote a book about Columbine himself, Randy Brown could have an ax to grind, and he sure looks that way. Cullen interviewed both Randy and Brooks, but, because he refused to buy the "bully" myth, apparently Randy Brown loathes him.

That said, I would have liked to see Cullen talk more about the "frenemy" angle between Brooks and Eric Harris, but, apparently, neither Brown was willing to talk about the friendship side of that.

Second ax-grinder on this issue is Ralph Larkin, a Ph.D. sociologist and college sociology professor, as well as the authof of a Columbine book of two years ago. Larkin apparently has his Ph.D. professional shingle at stake. Not only is he heavily invested in the bullying myth, he's also a big peddler of Myth No. 2, that Harris/Klebold targeted specific groups. Indeed, Larkin not only perpetuates the "jocks as targets" myth, he also claims the pair were targeting evangelical Christians. That's the first major push of that angle I've heard, which makes me wonder if Larkin isn't bringing personal beliefs to the table, too.

Anyway, feel free to read both these persons' reviews, or even Larkin's and Brooks Brown's books.

Randy Brown comes off as the No. 1 parent of a Columbine survivor to want to "control" the post-Columbine impressions of the outside world. Perhaps that's why neither he nor his son wanted to talk about the "frenemy" angle.

Larkin is just full of illogical holes, which leads to Myth No. 2.

===

2. Harris and Klebold did NOT target jocks. Or other groups. Cullen easily refutes this by saying, why didn't they attack the gym? Or take their guns and bombs to a Columbine football game. Rather, Harris raised the "target jocks" comment once in a failed attempt to recruit a third shooter.

As for evangelical Christians, that one doesn't even make Cullen's radar screen. But, along the same thought lines, it too is easily refutable by noting the pair could have attacked a church, instead of Columbine High, and didn't. They didn't even vandalize a church in their petty crime phase, in fact.
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3. Harris was NOT a virgin. Tis true that once in his diary, he moans about "NOT getting any," but that's not the same as "NEVER getting any." He's dead, so we can't ask him, but you either accept alleged female companion testimony at face value, or you don't. That's not to say that Cullen doesn't perhaps overstate Harris' prowess, but, remember, he was a psychopath. I have no doubt he could mount charm offenses on women.

And, on to the sidebar myth.

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4. Cassie Bernall was NOT a martyr. She didn't give a last-minute profession of faith before Harris shot her. In fact, she said nothing. And her mom, Misti, not one of the more tragic, but one of the more off-putting, figures of Columbine, was directly told that by another student, at a dinner with that student, her mom, another student and mom, and Misti Bernall's editor from Plough, her book publisher. She was also semi-directly told this by the Rocky Mountain news, also before her book went into print. Yet, she ran the lie, ran the lie in follow-up editions of the book, and on her website. As did evangelical pastors around the area, as Cullen notes.

I'll have more on dramatis personae in a second, but let's get to the core.

Eric Harris was a psychopath. Most 1- and 2- star reviewers don't like that because, like Larkin and Brown, it doesn't fit into their preconceptions.

First, they can't blame liberal Hollywood media, computer games, etc. (Psychopath Charles Manson killed before any of that, anyway.)

Second, they can't blame permissive liberal parenting. (Harris's career Air Force officer dad and Klebold's parents who booted his older brother from the house for drug use refute that, anyway.)

Third, they can't blame bullying.

The second can be made "isolated." The first and third, on paper, at least, can be "worked on" with an eye toward a fix.

But, the dark mental world of psychopathy can't be fixed. With one hint at the possibility of partial amelioration, which Cullen mentions near the end, not only can't psychopathy be "fixed," psychopathy is actually hugely resistant to treatment. There's no psychotropic medication for it, and, as for talk therapy, good psychopaths learn to become better ones by the challenge of manipulating and reading a putative emotional expert, their counselor.

And that's why Cullen can't give a "neat" story to us. There isn't one.

As for Klebold, his is the tragedy. With a different friend, he might have committed suicide, but not shot others. With better analysis, and like Harris, getting antidepressants and/or counseling as part of his juvenile probation diversion, his depression might actually have been touched.

Cullen briefly discusses psychopath + depressive dyads in the book.

===

Pictures of other key characters.

Dissers of Cullen score him for relying too much on the FBI's Dwayne Fuselier, above all over the psychopath analysis — one repeated by MANY other psychologists, though.

Well, that's just too bad, because the man knew, and knows, his business.

Misti Bernall: I picture her as being daughter Cassie's big sister wannabe before Columbine, and I suspect she's held on to the myth of martyrdom to hold onto that, too.

Frank DeAngelis: A tragedy in not finding his own emotional release before divorce. Ditto for Linda Lou Sanders, widow of Dave Sanders. And kudos to Cullen for addressing this, not just parents of the children, or child survivors.

Sheriff John Stone and various members of the JeffCo Sherrif's Dept: I've argued on my blog it's ridiculous to elect sheriffs when we don't elect police chiefs or state directors of public safety and Stone is a poster child for that point of view. It's too bad state judges gave such narrow rulings on various points of county liability. Stone, as likely leader of not just censorship but a cover-up, deserved a couple of years of jail time, as did top assistant, Division Chief John Kiekbusch.

Brian Rohrbaugh: Beyond perhaps still dealing with his own anger over son Danny's death in an unhealthy way, he too is a poster child — a poster child for LONG overstaying one's 15 minutes of fame. Add in that the death brought out a lot of far-right political thought, and he is totally unsympathetic by now, with the exception of his lawsuit flushing much of the JeffCo coverup into daylight.

Evangelical ministers of the area: Their degree of exploitation of the shooting is disgusting, as well described by Cullen. It's disgusting enough that, if the Hell they love graphically portraying did exist, then, per Dante, they would deserve ninth-level reserved seats.

Don Marxhausen: The Lutheran pastor shows that, for people looking for religious comfort, not religious condemnation, mainline Protestant churches still have something to offer.

PTSD: Yes, I call it a "dramatis personae." Little about it was known in 1999; it's unfortunate it took this tragedy to bring more about it to light, but Columbine spurred new work into counseling and otherwise assisting surviving victims of tragedy.

Romm says support Waxman-Markey

Former Clinton Administration Department of Energy technocrat Joseph Romm argues that, while the bill is flawed, it’s a good start and can be built upon in the future. He uses the analogy of the original Clean Air Act of way back in 1963, with further development after that.

Romm says Reason No. 2 for the Senate to approve Waxman-Markey is it will lay the groundwork for a bipartisan climate control accord with China, and do so before the Copenhagen environmental summit in December.

If Romm has insider information that says passing Waxman-Markey is pretty much a slam dunk as a guarantor of that, then, I’ll accept the good, or what sounds more good, as a precursor to the better. If not, I’ll stay in reluctant opposition.

Latest Obama Admin lie – civil liberties

Just.Another.Politician.™ has not only the George Barack Obama gall, now, to consider drafting an executive order that says he can indefinitely detain his people, his staff claims civil liberties groups asked them to do it.
“Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order,” the official said.

Ahh, first the WaPost gives this person anonymity, without even saying why, in this case. Second, Mr. Anonymous never names one of these groups by name; I’m sure the ACLU or CCR or HRW said this.

Meanwhile, the Obama DOJ claims at least 90 detainees can neither be tried nor released.

And, giving the lie to Team Obama’s claims that it’s been asked to do this by executive order is this “tell”:
Concerns are growing among Obama's advisers that Congress may try to assert too much control over the process.

Yep, it’s not that CCR “said to do this,” it’s to cut Congress off at the past.

The lies get more transparent all the time, too.

Greenwald has much more, including this:
There has now emerged a very clear — and very disturbing — pattern whereby Obama is willing to use legal mechanisms and recognize the authority of other branches only if he's assured that he'll get the outcome he wants. If he can't get what he wants from those processes, he'll just assert Bush-like unilateral powers to bypass those processes and do what he wants anyway.

Yep, that’s our president, either sneak thief or passive-aggressive. And more dishonest about it than Bush.

June 26, 2009

Waxman-Markey passes House; and?

The House has just passed Waxman-Markey on a 219-212 vote.

That said, will it pass the Senate? It certainly won’t get strengthened there, dreams of some environmentalists aside. (That’s a fantasy I have, but not a dream, because I know it has zero chance.)

It has tough sledding. Not so much because of GOP opposition, but because healthcare reform is the hot Senate topic right now, and the issue of whether or not Obama will bypass the Senate reconciliation procedures on that issue.

That said, does Waxman-Markey matter?

Well, maybe not.

My take? Contra Gang Green enviro organzations (who, of course, value their Democratic Party “access” on a bill like this), I’m halfway in agreement, at least, with Greenpeace’s dump this sucker angle.

What’s wrong with the bill? Per Grist, a fair amount:
The biggest flaws environmental organizations have identified in Waxman-Markey include the removal of the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, the grandfathering of old coal-fired power plants in the initial years of the cap-and-trade program, and the delay in considering the climate impacts of indirect land use in biofuel production, among others.

In other words, back to the BushCo era on CO2 regulation, back to the BushCo era, or staying there, on Big Coal, and kicking the can down the road on biofuels.

Add in the fact that the Obama Administration teamed up to shift the U.S. “target year” for greenhouse gas cuts from 1990 to 2005, and this bill is Swiss cheese.

Add in that USDA, not EPA, will regulate will regulate details of the compromise with Big Ag, and it’s factory farm Swiss cheese.

Finally, as noted in the bill passage story, the cap-and-trade credits will be treated as a kind of derivative, and we know what American financiers did with them the past several years.

Meanwhile, Gang Green group League of Conservation Voters has already promised NOT to endorse Waxman-Markey opponents, including real environmentalists who oppose the Swiss cheese.

But, now somebody else, someone whose opinion I respect, weighs in with a solid reason to support the bill and support the Senate passing it.

Former Clinton Administration Department of Energy technocrat Joseph Romm argues that, while the bill is flawed, it’s a good start and can be built upon in the future. He uses the analogy of the original Clean Air Act of way back in 1963, with further development after that.

Romm says Reason No. 2 for the Senate to approve Waxman-Markey is it will lay the groundwork for a bipartisan climate control accord with China, and do so before the Copenhagen environmental summit in December.

If Romm has insider information that says passing Waxman-Markey is pretty much a slam dunk as a guarantor of that, then, I’ll accept the good, or what sounds more good, as a precursor to the better. If not, I’ll stay in reluctant opposition.


Anyway, I’m curious about your views, so take the poll if you would. (Multiple answers are allowed, as I have a bit of snark in it.)


Free polls from Pollhost.com
What's your take on the Waxman-Markey climate bill?
Very good per the current political climate Solidly per the current political climate So-so at best in the current political climate Something is better than nothing, I guess Where was Obama's leadership on this? Sometimes the so-so is the enemy of the better I reluctantly agree with Greenpeace - dump it Weak from the start, got worse with time   


What’s your take on Waxman-Markey – with poll?

As the federal climate control bill, often known as Waxman-Markey from the bill’s originators, Congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, moves toward a vote today, what’s your take on the bill?

Me? Contra Gang Green enviro organzations (who, of course, value their Democratic Party “access” on a bill like this), I’m halfway in agreement, at least, with Greenpeace’s dump this sucker angle.

What’s wrong with the bill? Per Grist, a fair amount:
The biggest flaws environmental organizations have identified in Waxman-Markey include the removal of the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, the grandfathering of old coal-fired power plants in the initial years of the cap-and-trade program, and the delay in considering the climate impacts of indirect land use in biofuel production, among others.

In other words, back to the BushCo era on CO2 regulation, back to the BushCo era, or staying there, on Big Coal, and kicking the can down the road on biofuels.

Add in the fact that the Obama Administration teamed up to shift the U.S. “target year” for greenhouse gas cuts from 1990 to 2005, and this bill is Swiss cheese.

Add in that USDA, not EPA, will regulate will regulate details of the compromise with Big Ag, and it’s factory farm Swiss cheese.

And Gang Greeen group League of Conservation Voters has already promised NOT to endorse Waxman-Markey opponents, including real environmentalists who oppose the Swiss cheese.

Former Clinton Administration Department of Energy technocrat Joseph Romm argues that, while the bill is flawed, it’s a good start and can be built upon in the future. He uses the analogy of the original Clean Air Act of way back in 1963, with further development after that.

Romm says Reason No. 2 for the Senate to approve Waxman-Markey is it will lay the groundwork for a bipartisan climate control accord with China, and do so before the Copenhagen environmental summit in December.

If Romm has insider information that says passing Waxman-Markey is pretty much a slam dunk as a guarantor of that, then, I’ll accept the good, or what sounds more good, as a precursor to the better. If not, I’ll stay in reluctant opposition.


Anyway, I’m curious about your views, so take the poll if you would. (Multiple answers are allowed, as I have a bit of snark in it.)


Free polls from Pollhost.com
What's your take on the Waxman-Markey climate bill?
Very good per the current political climate Solidly per the current political climate So-so at best in the current political climate Something is better than nothing, I guess Where was Obama's leadership on this? Sometimes the so-so is the enemy of the better I reluctantly agree with Greenpeace - dump it Weak from the start, got worse with time   


Corruption and religious cover-up is bipartisan

Michigan Rep. John Conyers’ wife, Monica, a member of the Detroit City Council who is close to a federal corruption indictment, has this whitewash to say:
“If you aren't praying for me, then you are just adding to the problem. First and foremost, I am a child of God,” Conyers said. “All these things going on right now, I believe in my heart, God will deliver me from.”

What, gOd will magically becloud the minds of federal jurors? Good luck with that one.

Oh, and given the ethical slap on the hand the hubby got from the House Ethics Committee two years ago, this must run in the family.

And, schadenfreude alert: This is what African-Americans of this mindset (edited) get for being the most religious sector of America.

Update, June 26: Less than two weeks after swearing and swearing and swearing she would not plead out to federal criminal charges, City Councilwoman Conyers has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

Whose your god now, Monica?

Update No. 2, June 29: A poster, via Carnival of the Godless, I assume, says my schadenfreude comments are racist.

I reject that.

I may, or may not be overgeneralizing too much, but, unlike Charles Murray’s claims about IQ or something, fact is that, by racial groups, African-Americans are by percentage the nation’s most religious people, the most regular church-goers, etc.

And, the holiness tradition, complete with miracles for today’s world, etc. is stronger within African-American Christianity than among other ethnic groups. To put it directly, COGIC is a bigger part of black Christianity than Foursquare is of white Christianity. (John Ensign aside.)

Well, Monica Conyers didn’t get her miracle; she didn’t get her deliverance. And, all too many African-Americans in these churches don’t. Especially among poorer elements of black society.

Now, it’s arguable that my schadenfreude might be harsh, or it might be too generalizing. I’ll buy that it’s too generalizing, and, as one can see, I’ve edited it.

But, that’s as far as we go.

Instead of another antitheist wanting to cyber-duke it with me, he ought to recognize that African-American Christians, on average, are likely to be the most deluded of any ethnic group’s believers. Including those like Monica Conyers educated enough to know better.

That then said, as for “deliverance,” given that, IMO, certain strands of black Christianity can be exploitive of the mindset of their members, deliverance is needed. But not the deliverance preached from these pulpits. Rather, deliverance from that “deliverance.”

Update 3, also June 29:This, in turn, leads me to say that, like other liberals of similar mindset, while I still favor some sort of affirmative action, I am quite ready for future affirmative action to be moved beyond a specifically race-based focus to looking at socio-economic class.

That’s not directly related to race or ethnicity and religious life, but it is reasonably tangential to the idea of whether its any worse to feel schadenfreude based on a racial group’s strong religiosity or a socioeconomic group’s strong religiosity.

Scat away the ‘dangerous coyote’ myth

At least in Canada. In shock-me duh news, as it should to any real environmentalist, studies of documented coyote-human attacks show that not only are they rare, but every one was by a coyote previously fed by humans.

I’m sure the same holds true in the U.S.

So, if Wile E. ate your cat, that’s probably because it ate somebody else’s Hostess Twinkies handout before that.

Scat, the final frontier

Scientists are tracking emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica by tracking their scat from outer space!

Political ethics bipartisan as Conyers’ wife pleads

Just two weeks after swearing and swearing and swearing she would not plead out to federal criminal charges, Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, wife of Democratic Congressman John Conyers, has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

Beyond that, in Detroit?

What the hell is left to be bribed over?

Oink if you have swine flu

You might be surprised. The Centers for Disease Control says at least 1 million Americans have contracted the famous new H1N1 variant.

Could be a fun winter here, if the strain picks up any new twists while expanding in the Southern Hemisphere during its current winter.

The Stonewall story with a twist of irony

That twist being that the Village Voice’s reporter for the riots that made gay rights history was the son of one of America’s top World War II generals, and himself just graduated from West Point, stringing for the Voice while on summer leave before heading to Fort Benning.

Now, Lucian Truscott IV gives a very good thumbnail sketch of what happened at Stonewall — and why, including the Mafia backdrop, albeit one forced on the Stonewall by the state of New York, 40 long years ago.

If you’re not familiar with the Stonewall story (I’m about five years too young, myself, to not only have heard about it, but to have understood anything about it at the time) Truscott’s recollection is a great starting point.

Part of why the riot broke out is that a special police unit was raiding the Stonewall for selling liquor without a license. Why?

The regular beat unit in the area was taking shakedown money from the gay bars. For more on that, from a retired Connecticut cop who was also there — as a patron — in 1969, read this.

And, that said, I’m not sure I can picture being a gay cop nearly 40 years ago.

South of the Trinity whores after Morning News

The phrase “whoring after the Morning News,” specifically by civic leaders of the Best Southwest suburbs south of Dallas, has been a phrase on my lips for years.

What brings it to mind now is that, after Ed Bailey opens up the first of his Bailey’s Prime Plus steakhouses in Cedar Hill, the Snooze gets an acerbic new restaurant reviewer, who then apparently proceeds to break her own “two-month” rule on a “breathing space” timeframe for reviewing brand-new restaurants, then after reviewing the less-than-two-months-new Bailey’s she gives it a thorough bitch-slapping.

And, other than people who don’t like her reviews in general, other people who spring to Bailey’s defense are almost all from down here, and almost all come off as “whoring after the News.”

Specifically, on her bias, to not review the wines at a steakhouse that has an all-glass wine “cellar” as a point of presentation (which Brenner also misses in her “garish” comments about décor) comes off as willful. At the same time, as far as not getting a baked potato with a steak, Ed Bailey himself made clear he was pitching his steakhouses more toward women, including in the story the Snooze did about the opening of the restaurant. Perhaps baked potatoes with steaks seemed too stereotypically masculine. If so, then Ms. Brenner brought some steakhouse preconception baggage with her.

A one-star rating, rather than, say a two-star, also seems to reflect willful ax-grinding, as well as some advance baggage.

That said, several of the sides that Bailey’s offers, per a sampling I attended, made at least a stab at creativity, and were decent in quality. The steaks? I’ve never been to a high-dollar steakhouse, but, from what I had… I woudn’t use the term “supermarket,” but, they didn’t knock me over.

But, back to the theme of this blog post.

Speaking of that last, denizens of the south of the Trinity portion of the Metroplex will probably keep “whoring after the News” even as the Snooze continues to contract. Talk about a recipe for dysfunctionality.

Angela Hunt, establishment Dallas politician

At the Dallas Observer, Jim Schuetze spells out the details. Just hope this isn’t followed by Angela Hunt, sellout politician running for Dallas mayor.

Eddie Bernice Johnson discovers existence of suburbs

In nine-plus years, with one brief hiatus, of covering news in south suburban Dallas for Today Newspapers, I have NEVER seen Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. I’ve met members of her staff, who have held a couple of community meetings for her. But, I’ve never seen her.

Not after the 2004 flooding in Lancaster, even.

It’s as if, for the 16-plus years since she was elected to Congress, only the city of Dallas was “really” part of her Congressional district. That’s also even though the suburban portion of District 30 represents about one-fifth of the district by population.

In contrast, Kenny Marchant of the 24th District has been in Cedar Hill more than once that I’ve seen, in DeSoto, and elsewhere, despite the fact that the portion of our south-of-the-Trinity suburbs that constitute his district is a smaller percentage than for Johnson.


Well, apparently EBJ had President Barack Obama take a look at her Congressional District map with her, because she’s finally visiting the suburbs.

And how did Obama help? Well, she’s visiting a road construction project that, via the Texas Department of Transportation, is getting some Obama stimulus money.

Her motivations are so transparent to be laughable. Increasing the political factor, with U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari scheduled to be in attendance, I guess EBJ had to show up.

Also, apparently suburban media don’t exist. I have yet to get an e-mail from her office about this event on my newspaper office e-mail.

That said, a Democratic opponent to EBJ who promises to campaign down here in the burbs next spring will get plenty of space here. And, a Green candidate who runs against her in the general will get even more coverage.

Update, 2017: The actual ceremony was on the Cedar Hill side of 67 and thus in Marchant's district, to boot.

It’s time to stone to death Ensign and Sanford

Joe Conason carefully reminds us about the biblical penalty, coming from the Mosaic law that conservative Christians, and their conservative Republican political exploiters and abetters like Nevada Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, for the sin of adultery.

So, let’s get some stones picked up. If you don’t feel you have a strong arm, I believe a “petard” doubles as a sling.

June 25, 2009

Celebrity deaths, nostalgia, fallacious reasoning

The old folk saying about “it happens in threes” often gets applied to celebrity deaths. Well, today it’s true. After Ed McMahon’s death earlier this week, then Farah Fawcett’s expected passing
and Michael Jackson’s surprise death is the third.

All three mean something.

First, with Farrah, I’m the right age that she was pin-up material when I was in junior high school. And “Charlie’s Angels” was definitely watchable.

And, Farrah Fawcett Majors, if you will, please. That’s who the actress on “Charlie’s Angels” was.

Yes, Lee was jealous. Perhaps that did contribute to the divorce. Perhaps he had a wandering eye, too.

But, perhaps she was already into drugs by then. Coke or speed to stay thin, then Valium or similar to get some sleep.

And, from some of her late-life TV appearances, apparently never 100 percent, long-term, successful, in kicking various drug habits.

She did show poise, dignity, and more, though, in her battle with cancer, and yes, given its ravages and the type of cancer, I can understand her wanting it to end.

Beyond that poise and dignity, perhaps she can, in her death, get more Americans to open their minds more about assisted suicide legislation.

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Michael Jackson? Thriller broke out when I was in college; that part of Jackson, before he plunged into the drained shallow end of the pool of weirdness, means nostalgia.

So, nostalgia related to Jackson is more about trying to do the moonwalk — and succeeding nicely — at college dances, and therefore, reflecting in larger part on college life at a small (less than 500 students) Christian college.

In turn, as Salon music critic Bill Wyman (NO, not THAT Bill Wyman) notes, Jackson had quite the screwed-up family life as part of being unprepared for celebrity and therefore having quite the screwed-up adulthood. Perhaps he, and Latoya, were sexually abused That said, as civil-case-settlement pedophile, his own childhood, if that is part of what happened, is neither excuse nor reason.

I know that from family history, both as an offered justification, and the fact that shit like that often ISN’T poured further downhill.

Beyond nostalgia, I look at Michael as having been “a kinder, gentler predator,” and shed not a tear for him.

I have no desire, therefore, to try Facebook’s “What Michael Jackson song are you” quiz. Or anything similar.

===

So, too, does Ed. Nostalgia for the “simpler time” of America, the time of my parents more than myself.

Ed? Far more than “set-up man” for Johnny, he was a comedic star in his own right before pairing with Carson. And, Johnny knew it, too, even if he didn’t already admit it.

As part of being that set-up man, though, he bore Johnny’s jokes at and about him, including those that involved psychological displacement. (Ed was never a serious drinker, but Carson was, for many, many a year; the Budweiser jokes were example No. 1 of that displacement.)

Then, later, Ed made his own, post-Johnny second-act career, only to sadly show us at the end that being rich, famous, or both, is no guarantee against financial catastrophe.

===

At the same time, per my own self and people like Bob Carroll at Skeptic’s Dictionary, the “this happens in threes” is nothing more than an illustration of the bulls-eye fallacy.

JACKO DEAD! Iranians suspected

Yes, it’s apparently true that the King of Pop, the King of Pedophilia, the King of Pepsi Hair Fires, the King of Perversion (got any more P-words?) is dead.

As for “Iranians suspected”?

Hey, it’s possible that Supreme Leader Ali Khatemei had Jacko (I’ve got to get “Jacko” out of my system now that he’s dead) given drugs to induce his fatal heart attack.

What better way to get the Iranian beatdown of street protestors off the front page, and, in Iran, not too long before Friday prayers?

Geez, these mullahs will stop at nothing.

Besides, if I’m going to write a New York Post header, I’m going to write a New York Post story to go under it.

Sanford affair leaves The State as well as state with egg on face

South Carolina’s capital-city newspaper, The State, allegedly had copies of the e-mails between Gov. Mark Sanford and his Buenos Aires mistress, Maria, six months ago, one of many revelations from an in-depth Washington Post story:
Late Wednesday, the State, a South Carolina newspaper, published e-mails between Sanford's personal account and the woman it identified as "Maria" in Buenos Aires. The newspaper said it obtained the messages in December, but did not explain why it waited to publish them.

That, in turn, makes this column by Gina Smith at The State “interesting” at least. She wonders why no DC media is at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport.

Well, considering your newspaper had been sitting on a bombshell for six months…

My question is, did Smith herself know about the e-mails, and when?

She indicates she did, and says The State will have a big "wrap" story Sunday.

Meanwhile, headed back to the Post story:

And, during these last days, before going public, he apparently bared his soul to former peers in Washington from his days as a Congressman (shades of John Ensign!):
Sanford referred obliquely to receiving spiritual guidance from a Christian bible study group in Washington that he identified only as "C Street." The group holds private weekly prayer and counseling meetings at a Capitol Hill home shared by several members of Congress.

Finally, Sanford is refusing to resign, partly because Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, already looking at a 2010 run himself, would step up, and the two loathe each other.

Update: Sanford apparently originally had a two-week rendezvous planned with the now-identified Maria Belen Chapur. And, this was after his wife insisted on their trial separation.

Boy, talk about pouring gasoline on yourself.

Secular alternative to AA starting in Dallas

Note: I’m requesting other Texas bloggers, or bloggers who know someone in Texas to please forward this information.

Lifering Secular Recovery is tentatively starting face-to-face meetings in Dallas at 7 p.m. Fridays and 3 p.m. Sundays. People wanting more information can either contact me at socraticgadfly AT hotmail DOT com or Michael O’Neal at mikethedrugcounselor AT yahoo DOT com.

The Sunday meeting will tentatively be at the Lovers/Greenville Central Market.

For more on Lifering Secular Recovery, visit its website.

Perry trying to back-door Trans Texas Corridor?

If you look at the details of Texas Gov Rick Perry's calling the Texas Lege into special session, on No. 3 below, it sounds that way:

====

The special session will consider the following issues:

1. Legislation extending the existence of five state agencies that were
subject to sunset review by the 81st Legislature that would otherwise be
abolished without legislative action, and to change the review schedule for
certain state agencies to balance the Sunset Advisory Commission¹s workload.
These agencies include the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas
Department of Insurance, Texas Racing Commission, Office of Public Insurance
Counsel and Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.

3.Legislation allowing the Texas Department of Transportation to issue
general obligation bonds, which have already been approved by voters, for
highway improvement projects, and for the creation, administration,
financing and use of a Texas Transportation Revolving Fund to provide
financial assistance for transportation projects.
?Legislation extending the authority of the Texas Department of
Transportation and a regional mobility authority to use comprehensive
development agreements to design, finance, build and maintain transportation
infrastructure.

Obama signs highly flawed Af-Pak bill

President Obama has signed into law the flawed $106 billion bill supporting continued warmaking in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It’s deeply flawed for a couple of reasons.

One is it doesn’t have more of an Obama Administration war plan attached to pound sand down the rathole of Afghanistan.

Second is the attached cars-for-clunkers bill which will, among other things, allow Americans to upgrade old SUVs to new ones getting just 1mpg better, even as, with his other hand, Obama tries to force bankrupt Chrysler and GM make and sell more in the way of fuel-efficient cars.

Third is the unstated backdrop of this bill having once been held hostage to the Lieberman-Graham amendment to censor the publication of all the Abu Ghraib 2.0 pictures, followed by Obama breaking that logjam with his pledge to presidentially censor them.

Fourth was the failure of enough antiwar Democrats to actually be antiwar, team with Republicans mad about the IMF funding rider on the bill, and thus kill it.

This is without a doubt the worst non-fiscal bill to be passed, and signed into law, so far in the Obama Administration.

Schools kids get back bit of civil liberties

The Supreme Court has found unconstitutional the strip search of an Arizona girl who had been believed to have “illicit” ibuprofen on her person.

That’s problem No. 1 — the portion of the inane “War on Drugs” that plays out on school campuses, so inane that Advil and generic equivalents are an “illicit drug.” And, a fellow student ratting her out?

And, shock me that Clarence Thomas would be the only person to dissent from the 8-1 ruling. I think he’s let his own mom be strip-searched for driving while black.

Tha said, Justices Stevens and Ginsburg did want the principal of the school in question to be held liable to suit, which the rest of the court rejected; only the district can now be sued.

Is Media Matters for America fluffing George Barack Obama

Was President Obama's at his scripted question-calling to Nico Pitney at his White House presser on Iraq just an "innocent mistake"?

Matters for America takes the angle that because the question was tough and not itself preplanted, this is no big deal.

Wrong.

If Obama was dumb enough to transparently go to Pitney that early, clearly outside of protocol,, after the WH press office had contacted Pitney in advance, AND not have more of a clue as to the question’s detail, it just makes him look dumb, rather than guiltless.

Let’s put this in Media Matters for America terms.

By this “dumb means guiltless” angle, George W. Bush never committed one wrongdoing while in the White House.

Nice Democratic Party try, but it doesn’t work.

If Media Matters for America were a truly progressive media watchdog, and not a Democratic Party-oriented watchdog, every election cycle it would comment on the lack of Green Party election coverage. So, don’t make me bitch-slap you for arguing with my statement that MMA is a Democratic Party fluffer outfit.

And, via Politico, a review of just what happened.

Allegedly, the White House. Via Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton called Pitney in advance, and “invited” him to ask an Iran question Here’s Burton:
“We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he’d be called on. And, he ended up asking the toughest question that the President took on Iran. In the absence of an Iranian press corps in Washington, it was an innovative way to get a question directly from an Iranian.”

The White House never denied the question was tough. That said, even if there was no “planting,” you still have bad optics. It was clumsy, clumsy.

And, though it’s rare, I simple disagree with the angle of Greenwald’s take in his Update. It’s not about whether Pitney is not a serious journalist or Huff Post isn’t a serious outlet. (Though, with anti-vaccinators and other nutbars getting more and more of The Greek Goddess’s bandwidth, HuffPost as a journalism site DOES leave itself open to questions like that, Glenn.)

Also contra Glenn, it was Politico, neither “establishment media” nor “right-wing blog,” that first raised the issue.

Whether this IS the way it is bad or not, it looks bad because:
1. It looks like the Obama press office was trying to “soften” that tough question;
2. It looks like the WH press office was trying to fish for at least a partial angle on that tough question;
3. On an issue where many conservatives are pushing him, it looked like an attempt to pre-empt tough questioning on Iran from a somewhat friendlier source.

World’s earliest known flute found

Beyond the age a 35,000-year-old treasure, this find in Germany raises other questions of music and human development.

For example, I’ve always figured a flute of some sort was the world’s first wind instrument, and probably the world’s first tuned instrument, followed by the first oboe-like instrument when a papyrus flute, softened enough by saliva at the top, because a double-reed wind instrument.

But, there is another instrument, and other aspects to music besides pitch.

Like rhythm.

This raises the question of what the first musical instrument man invented was. Drums are still likeliest, but rocks, logs, or bones as rhythm instruments are indistinguishable from rocks, logs or bones in and of themselves.

Iran protests, crackdown both continue

First, in true callousness, Iranian authorities have forced the parents of killed young woman Neda Soltan out of their apartment.

Meanwhile, both protests and crackdown continue.

More on the clashes and the continuing protests despite diminished crowds. (Diminished until Friday afternoon?) More here on vows by protestors to continue challenging the Iranian election results.

But, that may not be good enough.

The ever-insightful, indefatigable Robert Fisk says opposition leader Mir Mousavi needs to get more organized. (An interesting observation about the alleged “Butcher of Beirut,” a position I think would require plenty of organization.)

The graphic nature of the violence, combined with reported restrictions on western media, got me to wondering:

If Google Earth is allegedly so damned accurate that our government blocks it from showing some sites, and the rich and famous, as well as the John and Jane Does, complain in various ways about how much detail it shows, then why aren’t we seeing close-up images in Tehran from Google Earth?

June 24, 2009

Mousavi needs to get more organized on ‘intifada’

As protests over the Iran election results continue in Tehran (and perhaps elsewhere in Iran, but that’s where the Twittering, as well as the limited media coverage, is happening), the ever-insightful, indefatigable Robert Fisk says opposition leader Mir Mousavi needs to get more organized in controlling what Fisk – who would know from his reporting background – calls an “intifada.”

Basically saying that “Kumbaya time” has failed, Fisk said Mousavi needs to do more:
You don't overthrow Islamic revolutions with car headlights. And definitely not with candles. Peaceful protest might have served Gandhi well, but the Supreme Leader's Iran is not going to worry about a few thousand demonstrators on the streets, even if they do cry "Allahu Akbar” from their rooftops every night.

Mousavi, to win, needs to organise his protest in a more coherent way, not make it up on the hoof. But does Khamenei”have a longer-term plan than mere survival?

Well, know, Khamenei probably doesn’t. And, neither does Mousavi.

Unplanned revolts and revolutions are usually the bloodiest, history shows, precisely because there aren’t organized leaders to ride herd.

So, the Iranian bleeding, for what isn’t that much of a reform by secular western liberalism standards continues, continues to brutally slouch toward Isfahan.

George Barack Obama pulls a Bush with planted question

This time, at his White House presser on Iran, he asked Nico Pitney from Huffington Post a question co-ordinated in advance.

Allegedly, the White House. Via Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton called Pitney in advance, and “invited” him to ask an Iran question Here’s Burton:
"We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he’d be called on. And, he ended up asking the toughest question that the President took on Iran. In the absence of an Iranian press corps in Washington, it was an innovative way to get a question directly from an Iranian.”

Indeed, Obama violated normal WH presser protocol by bumping Pitney all the way up to No. 2 after Helen Thomas on the list of questioners, ahead of Reuters as leader of foreign press.

Update: Matters for America, similar to two commenters here, takes the angle that because the question was tough and not preplanted, this is no big deal.

Wrong.

If Obama was dumb enough to transparently go to Pitney that early, clearly outside of protocol,, after the WH press office had contacted Pitney in advance, AND not have more of a clue as to the question’s detail, it just makes him look dumb, rather than guiltless.

Let’s put this in Media Matters for America terms.

By this “dumb means guiltless” angle, George W. Bush never committed one wrongdoing while in the White House.

Nice Democratic Party try, but it doesn’t work.

(If Media Matters for America were a truly progressive media watchdog, and not a Democratic Party-oriented watchdog, every election cycle it would comment on the lack of Green Party election coverage. So, don’t make me bitch-slap you for arguing with my statement that MMA is a Democratic Party fluffer outfit.)

And, though it’s rare, I simple disagree with the angle of Greenwald’s take in his Update. It’s not about whether Pitney is not a serious journalist or Huff Post isn’t a serious outlet. (Though, with anti-vaccinators and other nutbars getting more and more of The Greek Goddess’s bandwidth, HuffPost as a journalism site DOES leave itself open to questions like that, Glenn.)

SC GOP Sunday barbecue menu – Mark Sanford

First, we have scorned wife, Jenny Sanford, emotionally as well as sexually betrayed by e-mails to Maria.
You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty.

And now, Jenny Sanford, the theoretically unsophisticated hausfrau has her own statement out, hurts and all:
We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

The hurt, even scorned, Southern woman?

Strike one with the chivalrous South Carolina GOP.

Second, Sanford knew this woman at least eight years, and went to Argentina before on the state taxpayer dime.

Strike two with the fiscally conservative South Carolina GOP.

And, the hypocrisy of a Father’s Day weekend tryst has even the one of the conservative bloviosphere witches aghast, calling you a bastard.

Strike three with the Southern proprieties South Carolina GOP.

The South Carolina GOP is having a barbecue this weekend, and Gov. Sanford is the main course, I guarohntee.

Update: Sanford apparently originally had a two-week rendezvous planned with the now-identified Maria Belen Chapur. And, this was after his wife insisted on their trial separation.

Boy, talk about pouring gasoline on yourself. Strike four. I do not care how much you hate your Light Gov, you had better step down now.

Gov. Sanford: They call his flame Maria

The State, Columbia’s newspaper, has copies of e-mails exchanged between Gov. Mark Sanford, and his “battery recharger,” a woman from Buenos Aires, Argentina known as Maria.

Oh, and while this was about sex, sex, sex, stereotypically, women don’t like emotional infidelity, and Gov. Johnny D. Pantsed had that, too:
You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty.

So, your wife, Jenny, then is unsophisticated and graceless? Oops…

And now, Jenny Sanford has her own statement out, hurts and all:
We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

The hurt, even scorned, Southern woman?

The South Carolina GOP is having a barbecue this weekend, and Gov. Sanford is the main course, I guarohntee.

Or, from Buenos Aires… Ay, chingada!

Update: Sanford apparently originally had a two-week rendezvous planned with the now-identified Maria Belen Chapur. And, this was after his wife insisted on their trial separation.

Boy, talk about pouring gasoline on yourself.

GOP ‘pants watch’ claims Sanford as latest victim

So, South Carolina Gov. Sanford wasn’t climbing the Appalachian Mountains, but instead the twin peaks of Buenos Aires.

And, Fox News once again identified a hypocritical Republican as a Democrat.

And, a new GOP hypocrisy watch phrase has entered the lexicon: “Recharging your batteries.”

Guess he will not be running for Prez in three years.

Will the last 2012 GOP presidential candidate with his pants on please stand up?

Speaking of that, given the amount of enemies Sanford has made within his own party, there's talk around Columbia that he needs to resign - or else possibly face impeachment.

Iran now has Khamenei against the clerics

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has long been considered a dime-store cleric or Cracker Jack ayatollah by many Western analysts, as well as by his clerical peers (and superiors) in Iran (whatever the Farsi idiom is). Now, though, it may be more than just intellectual scorn at play.

Even as Khamenei refuses to back down from certifying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as winner of the Iranian presidential election, some of those same clerics are joining the protest. This all ties in with Fareed Zakaria talking about the diffusion of even clerical power inside Iran, albeit with Zakaria’s claim about the “end of Iranian theocracy” being overblown.

And, with Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri calling for three days of mourning, that takes us up to and through Friday prayers. I’ve already predicted events on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere will probably heat up again after that. So, expect to see more of those mullahs on the street.

Where healthcare reform stands June 24

President Barack Obama vows that he “absolutely” will get healthcare reform done but refuses to discuss details.

Perhaps that’s because Ted Rall, who calls Obama a “militant moderate (like) Bill Clinton” says that what Obama has on the table will only insure about one-quarter of the uninsured, per Congressional Budget Office scoring of the Dodd-Kennedy plan. So far, The One has remained quiet on the Wyden alternative, which is disliked by big business (no surprise) and by the unions that have killed every real move toward national healthcare since Harry Truman.

(Many liberals and conservatives alike are ignorant of this simple fact. But, since World War II, unions have viewed their level of union-negotiated healthcare as a recruitment tool to get more workers. Well, with private-sector unionization pushing down toward the single-digit level, that’s obviously been a huge success).

In clear short-sightedness, unions don’t get that they would still be free to bargain for supplemental additional coverage, or other benefits, if we get single-payer national healthcare. Canada and Great Britain still have plenty of unions, don’t they?

Meanwhile, various medical-related lobbying groups, like the one for MRI operators, along with rural doctors and others, are starting to go into opposition over worries about reimbursements, etc.

Odds of comprehensive healthcare reform, including single payer, at this time? I’d say 60-40 against. Odds that major unions will, once again, dodge their deserved share of blame if we fail to get real healthcare reform? About 70-30 in favor.

Iran 2009 and Hitlerian Germany

If Himmler, Goering and Goebbels started shooting each other …

Would we intervene?

Well, per my previous blogging noting Mir Mousavi was 1983’s Butcher of Beirut, the man who within the last week, called for a “reformation” for the Islamic Republic of Iran and saluted the spirit of Ayatollah Khoumeni, and Fareed Zakaria explaining to us just how diffused (to some degree) the locus of political power is in Iran besides Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, really, that’s where we’re at.

Khamenei is, in essence, the embalmed corpse of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khoumeni, stuffed with myrrh and frankincense but still putrid, and growing more putrid by the day now that he has been forcibly exposed to sunlight inside his authoritarian crypt.

Within the comparisons?

Ali Akbar Rafsanjani might be the Rudolf Hess who never went insane, or else the Joseph Goebbels of propaganda for both himself and Mir Mousavi, Mahmood Ahmadinejad the clownish Hermann Goering, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani a lightweight version of the already lightweight Albert Speer, and Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri a quietist, unassassinated Reinhard Heydrich. Who matches the dimwitted former chicken farmer Himmler, I’m not sure. Rafsanjani, to the degree he is rich, possibly corrupt and other things, might have a touch of Joachim Ribbentrop in him. (What’s Farsi for a pseudo-“von”?)

And Mousavi? Maybe the Butcher of Beirut, so-called, has changed his spots. Or maybe he is a proto-quasi-Nazi; Kurt von Schleicher comes to mind.

US and EU agree on a trade issue

So much so that they’re both filing against China in the WTO for raw materials export restrictions. Ahh, this ought to be fun.

Critic agrees with take of ‘The Bell Curve 2.0’

Yesterday, I blogged about “The Bell Curve 2.0,” the stripping away of the intellectual pretensions of the “thought processes” of Andrew Sullivan.

At least one social critic from the blogworld has the same take as my initial review, only in much more depth, that what I have (so far!) done, and from a much different angle. I would, euphemistically, say that Christopher Badeaux “tears him a new one,” but, as Sullivan himself has noted about some of Sully’s proclivities, he might like that.

That said, as Badeaux notes, Sullivan rides above such trivially mortal concerns.

Ahh, to have more insight than John Paul II, Christian church fathers and others. Being alone amidst a “sea of troubles” of apostate conservatives and unconverted liberals, as Sullivan would put it, troubles him not, as he will bear arms, even if alone, against that sea of troubles.

Here’s a great pull quote, about one-third the way down:
But, few men are Andrew Sullivan. Depending on the day, Andrew Sullivan might not even be Andrew Sullivan.

And, later on, Badeaux does catch Sully, shockingly, admit
“I’m one of those people, deeply distressed at what has happened to America, deeply ashamed of my own misjudgments.

What? Sully must not have been speaking ex cathedra.

I am sure that other conservatives will be following the new Murray book closely and weighing in soon enough.

That said, Mr. Badeaux does have an agenda himself – reading Sully out of the conservative blogosphere.

No dice, Chris; he’s yours and you’re stuck with him, even if he doesn’t meet your social conservative definition of “conservative.” Feel free to go to his post and tell him that.

And, Mr. Badeaux misses the reason for Sullivan’s animosity toward neoconservatives, whether Jewish or Gentile, but, especially Jewish ones. They’re one step ahead of their evangelical Protestant fellow travelers. Including Chris Badeaux.

UPDATE, Nov. 28, 2011: Jokes aside, Sully is still, apparently, a full-on racialist. Ta-Nehesi Coates has a roundup of reaction to his pseudointellectual bigotry.

June 23, 2009

Mousavi – ‘reformer’ or ‘Butcher of Beirut’?

Well, leopards can change their spots, but, 25 years ago, Iranian presidential challenger Mir Mousavi was the Butcher of Beirut.

Conservatives flaying Obama for not supporting Mousavi, and mindless bloggers like Juan Cole and Andrew Sullivan, perhaps ought to ponder the attacks on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, 1983, and their mastermind, the Butcher of Beirut.

This leopard, the one who within the last week, called for a “reformation” for the Islamic Republic of Iran and saluted the spirit of Ayatollah Khoumeni, would have to have changed his spots a lot to really be a “reformer.”

Oh, and I am going to continue to hammer on Sully and Cole by name until I see that they have some sense on this issue.

Did Philly Mick choke at Bethpage?

I’d agree with Jeff Passan; that’s a big yes.

Beyond choking itself, as Passan notes, you have his “oh, well” statements after he was done.

Then, as I note, you have his pledge every year to do more in the way of conditioning, then by summer, we see that he’s never come close to matching Tiger, or Vijay Singh, or others, in that effort.

Yeah, he should have half a dozen majors, at least.

But, as I already told a friend of mine a year ago… after his Whiff at Winged Foot, he’ll never win another. And you can make book on that.

Tricky Dick OK with abortion – for racist reasons

New Nixon tape releases, from the period shortly after the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, show he was OK with abortion for rape – or for a pregnancy of interracial parents.

Guess that “Southern strategy” wasn’t just a political maneuver.

The Saturday Night Massacre, the Vietnam War treaty of 1973 and more are on more than 150 hours of tape from January and February 1973 just released by the National Archives.

Iran election claims and counterclaims analyzed

IranAffairs has a good summary post of election fraud claims by the Mir Mousavi camp and U.S. supporters such as Juan Cole and Andrew Sullivan, with counterclaims by foreign policy “realists” such as the Leveretts and others. Beyond the fraud claims and counterclaims, though, Cyrus Safdari is gathering claims and counterclaims from the online world about whether or not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad camp had improved the economy or not in the last four years, and so forth.

It’s a good read, and Safdari asks for further contributions of news stories, blogs, think tanks etc. that have weighed in on these election-related issues.

Guardian Council says NO to Iran Election redo

OK, so, it’s not just Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who’s a hard-liner. Or a denier of reality. The Council of Guardians not only said no to a do-over, it denied the need for one:
On Press TV, the English-language state television satellite broadcaster, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the Guardian Council, declared: “If a major breach occurs in an election, the Guardian Council may annul the votes that come out of a particular affected ballot box, polling station, district, or city.”

“Fortunately, in the recent presidential election we found no witness of major fraud or breach in the election,” he said.

“Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place.”

Kadkhodaei then brushed off specific accusations, while Khamenei himself said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s margin of victory was so big as to preclude fraud.

World Bank sez recession will get worse

Worldwide, the bank has increased its projected degree of economic contraction more than 1 percentage point worse than its March estimate.

NYT on healthcare – Krugman and Douthat duel

They’re not totally “dueling” on healthcare reform, at least not until you get to a single-payer type publicly run option for healthcare. At that point, Paul Krugman is certainly on a different page from Russ Douthat.

That said, though, while I think we need a single-payer option, I don’t disagree with everything Douthat said.

First, though, that single-payer option’s necessity. For business-based, business-mentality-based reasons, a German-style voucher system simply wouldn’t work here. I used to think it had a chance, but I’m firmly convinced that the American health insurance industry would find any and every way it could to either gut it, or else scam it. (That’s another reason Obama’s refusal to call for a federal insurance regulation bureau in his proposed financial regulation reform bill upset me.)

Back to our dueling columnists.

Krugman has the cannons of his ire trained on the sellout Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson, who had flatly opposed single-payer until he got ads run against him back in Nebraska, and Kent Conrad, who had this idea of insurance co-ops that Big Insurance was sure to game.

Krugman also says the cost doesn’t concern him a lot.

Well, it does concern Douthat; in fact, that’s the focus of his column.

And, I agree with him that, while it might not be quite like Great Britain or Canada (the degree of actual rationing they have, not the conservative bloviosphere’s healthcare urban legends), that Americans either need to be prepared to wait more, or to shell out more in taxes. He even raises the dark specter of California when liberals and conservatives fail to “square a circle” everybody thinks they will.
This dynamic is particularly pronounced in health care, but it holds true across almost every domestic policy debate. Voters demand low taxes and generous services, and neither party has found a way to say no and stay politically viable while saying it.

That said, despite Obama’s neoliberal tendency to over-tout the “waste, fraud and abuse” money savings angle, there is something to be said with that, on things such as standardized paperwork forms, etc.

Il procurer Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi is looking more and more like the Hugh Hefner Bob Guccione of Italy. The lede graf from the Times of London tells all:
He has made no secret of his love of women but the sex scandal surrounding Silvio Berlusconi is now threatening to topple him, as more claims emerge of the systematic recruitment of young women paid to attend private parties at his homes in Rome and Sardinia.

“Recruitment,” eh? I’d call it being a procurer. Or a pimp.

Don’t stop with the lede, though. Read the whole thing in juicy detail. Does the phrase “hostess service,” as in a “hostess service” being the source of some of these women, whet your salacious appetite?

Mousavi not visible enough?

A very interesting observation by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. Cohen also notes that the opposition to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is broad, and that Khamenei is pushing it in a more absolutist direction.

Interesting, as Tuesday starts in Tehran.

I think that the opposition will likely “pace the resistance” until Friday. Then? Stay tuned.

June 22, 2009

More on Texas and Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court has ruled that Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District 1 can opt out of the advance approval requirement of the law.

But, in a narrow ruling, sure to disappoint the hard-line conservatives who had hoped to have the VRA junked, or at least parts of it, per Justice Thomas, declared unconstitutional, got nothing else they wanted, including, above all, the entire provision NOT being junked. And, the Chief, Roberts, appeared OK with that.

In fact, so did the other “hard-line conservatives,” with the exception of Thomas, and so did the more moderate members, as it passed on an 8-1 line. ScotusBlog has more.

Rick Hasen of the Election Law blog finds the court’s chickening out on Section 5 legally laughable, titling one section of his in-depth post: “Chief Justice blinks.”

The reason for that take is that Section 5, on paper, only applies to governments that actually register voters, Hasen notes, and a MUD doesn’t do that.

Why? The stature of Justice David Souter on this issue, Hasen said. And, besides Souter, Justice Kennedy may have endorsed a narrow take early on, leaving the four hardcore conservatives, including Roberts, thinking they had no choice but to play along for appearances’ sake.

Of course, Justice Thomas doesn’t do “appearances,” hence his dissent.

Speaking of hardcore conservatives, the MUD was spinning hard to make this quarter-loaf, at best, look like “a complete victory as far as we’re concerned.”

Bullshit.

It’s not even a quarter-loaf for another reason.

Hasen concludes by noting a political bottom line:
The key political point is that Section 5 will remain in place during the next round of redistricting, and it will be redistricting supervised by the Obama Administration's DOJ. We have already seen that the Obama Administration appears more protective of voting rights than the Bush Administration's DOJ. So this will matter a great deal for the next decade of politics in terms of minority electoral success, even if Section 5 is struck down next decade.

And, THAT is why NW Austin MUD didn't win, looking at the strategic and not the tactical level.

Rafsanjani says elminate Supreme Leader – his angle

If the. report out of Saudi Arabia is true, this is big. A collective body instead of the one person would, to some degree, repudiate Ayatollah Khoumeni’s original model for Iran as an Islamic Republic, would it not?

And, that said, the “consultative body”? Uhh, well, that would most likely be the
Assembly of Experts, which he heads.

Very good, on the political angle.

Voting Rights Act narrowed in Texas – but only a bit

The Supreme Court has ruled that Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District 1 can opt out of the advance approval requirement of the law.

But, in a narrow ruling, sure to disappoint the hard-line conservatives who had hoped to have the VRA junked, or at least parts of it, per Justice Thomas, declared unconstitutional, got nothing else they wanted, including, above all, the entire provision NOT being junked. And, the Chief, Roberts, appeared OK with that.

In fact, so did the other “hard-line conservatives,” with the exception of Thomas, and so did the more moderate members, as it passed on an 8-1 line. ScotusBlog has more.

Rick Hasen of the Election Law blog finds the court’s chickening out on Section 5 legally laughable, titling one section of his in-depth post: “Chief Justice blinks.”

The reason for that take is that Section 5, on paper, only applies to governments that actually register voters, Hasen notes, and a MUD doesn’t do that.

Why? The stature of Justice David Souter on this issue, Hasen said. And, besides Souter, Justice Kennedy may have endorsed a narrow take early on, leaving the four hardcore conservatives, including Roberts, thinking they had no choice but to play along for appearances’ sake.

Of course, Justice Thomas doesn’t do “appearances,” hence his dissent.

Speaking of hardcore conservatives, the MUD was spinning hard to make this quarter-loaf, at best, look like “a complete victory as far as we’re concerned.”

Bullshit.

It’s not even a quarter-loaf for another reason.

Hasen concludes by noting a political bottom line:
The key political point is that Section 5 will remain in place during the next round of redistricting, and it will be redistricting supervised by the Obama Administration's DOJ. We have already seen that the Obama Administration appears more protective of voting rights than the Bush Administration's DOJ. So this will matter a great deal for the next decade of politics in terms of minority electoral success, even if Section 5 is struck down next decade.

And, THAT is why NW Austin MUD didn't win, looking at the strategic and not the tactical level.

Indefinite detention: Why did Obama appeal sex offender court ruling

The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide whether or not sex offenders can be detained in prison after completing their sentences. A federal appeals court already said “no dice” on that.

So why is the compassionate, just Obama Administration appealing the sex offender ruling?

Indefinite detention and the risk of SCOTUS setting a precedent that could spill over into the War on Terra, since The One had made clear he 110 supports indefinite detention of Terra-ists.

Who’s who in Iran?

I’ve talked in depth about the four biggest players: Ali Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir Mousavi and Akbar Rafsanjani. Well, Time has thumbnail profiles not only of them, but six other important Iranian players as we gear up for a likely new week of protests.

June 21, 2009

100-percent plus vote in IranElection would be fraud

Supposedly, more than 100 percent of those eligible to vote actually are recorded as voting in 50 Iranian cities, according to Iranian government TV.

Of course, Council of Guardians Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei said it was “only” 50 cities after claims of overvotes in as many as 170 cities.

That said, I know nothing about PressTV’s reliability, nor about the reliability of this particular story, as I started this post.

However, the New York Times confirms the story:
Serious new questions about the vote’s integrity were raised outside of Iran. Chatham House, a London-based research organization, released a study done with the University of St. Andrews challenging theIranian government’s results, based on a comparison with the 2005 elections as well as Iran’s own census data.

The study showed, for example, that in two provinces where Mr. Ahmadinejad won a week ago, a turnout of more than 100 percent was recorded.

The study also showed that in a third of all provinces, the official results, if true, would have required that Mr. Ahmadinejad win not only all conservative voters and all former centrist voters and all new voters, but up to 44 percent of formerly reformist voters.

If we are talking about fraud, then, who started it? Khamenei alone? Khamenei with Ahmadinejad? Select members of the Council of Guardians?

And, since, per Wiki, PressTV is government-funded, owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, press censorship inside Iran is obviously NOT total. Or, that close to it yet.

No ‘I before e, except after c’?

Yep! But not in the States. In Great Britain, the government says because the spelling “rule” has too many exceptions, teachers should stop using it

Mousavi wants new Islamic Republic of Iran

That’s the bottom line of Iranian presidential challenger Mir Mousavi’s Statement No. 5:
We are not up against our sacred regime and its legal structures; this structure guards our Independence, Freedom, and Islamic Republic. We are up against the deviations and deceptions and we want to reform them; a reformation that returns us to the pure principles of the Islamic Revolution.

He said this after saluting the memory of Khomenei, saying the original message of 1979 (I’m assuming he’s omitting the secularist part of that) was “so pleasant,” and more.

So, if the West should agree with him on nullifying the election, what do we expect from him? How strict of an intrusion of Shia hadith does he expect into daily Iranian life? More, the same, or fewer freedoms for women?

And, that’s why President Obama was right Wednesday when he said there’s not necessarily that much difference between Mousavi and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

So, once again to the idiotic Juan Coles and Andrew Sullivans of the world on this issue: Know who you’re supporting before blindly supporting them.

Americans want single-payer healthcare; what Obama must do

More than 70 percent of Americans, despite Republican-exploited worries about how their own private insurance might be hurt, think the country needs single-payer national healthcare — including half of Republicans.

Now, assuming that Obama in his gut (and, it’s hard to tell on many political issues, just like it was with Bill Clinton, how much commitment he actually has) believes in single-payer as part of healthcare overhaul, what MUST he do to make that a reality?

Frank Rich has six suggestions, all good and basic.

Meanwhile, beyond single-payer national healthcare, but certainly applying there, elsewhere, Rich says Obam must LEAD.

The GOP small tent – prez candiates

On the NYT op-ed pages, Gail Collins gets some snark at John Ensign ando other would-be presidential candidates from the Gimpy Old Party.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: A profile and his angle

The place to start is Rafsanjani’s Wiki page, which show a long-term political insider — former President; before that, former Majlis chairman during Reagan’s nutbar “arms for hostages” idea, and current chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which appoints people to the Council of Guardians. The Wiki page also reveals a variety of quotes, that bring under further question just how much of a reformer, a pragmatist, or a non-confrontationist vis-à-vis the US he actually is. Here’s one:
f one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality. Of course, you can see that the Americans have kept their eyes peeled and they are carefully looking for even the slightest hint that technological advances are being made by an independent Islamic country. If an independent Islamic country is thinking about acquiring other kinds of weaponry, then they will do their utmost to prevent it from acquiring them. Well, that is something that almost the entire world is discussing right now. (December 2001

While that occurred after George W. Bush became President of the U.S., it was before Iran was labeled part of an “axis of evil,” while Iran was cooperating with the U.S. in Afghanistan, and long before the invasion of Iraq.

Second as the Guardian notes, his 1989-97 presidency was NOT seen as close to a model of toleration by many Iranians. With nicknames like “kingmaker,” “shark” and “Machiavellian,” it’s clear his various electoral positions reflect his skill as an infighter.

Yesterday, I blogged about four endgames for the Iranian post-election turmoil, as listed by The Guardian The fourth of these, as you can see:
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.

Is Rafsanjani replacing Khamenei, even while Ahmadinejad remains president.

I’ve said before that I see a Rafsanjani-Ahmadinejad deal as a possibility, even though Ahmadinejad leveled corruption charged at Rafsanjani during the election. Given the fluidity of definition of “moderate” (and the Sully-Cole grouping here in America sounding more and more like Ronald Reagan, circa 1985-86), deals are possible all across the Iranian spectrum.

Here, Iran strikes me as being kind of like Nazi Germany minus Hitler at the top. Many competing power centers, with the Council of Guardians the highest, but by no means having a power stranglehold. (While the Council, and the Supreme Leader, are the highest, they’re by no means the sole lever of power.)

That’s another reason why power deals seem possible across a variety of political orientations.

Here’s another: Rather than booting Khamenei upstairs to Supreme Leader Emeritus, maybe Rafsanjani offers him the face-saver of swapping jobs, by him taking Rafsanjani’s spot on the Assembly of Experts.