July 11, 2009

GM restructure NOT so full of Obama promise – or any

I don’t care that President Barack Obama himself claimed recently GM’s restructuring plan is “full of promise,” it’s not.

First, let us note that, per a subscription-only Wall Street Journal story, “old” GM may take a number of years to clear bankruptcy.

Among problems there is that GM’s planned sale of its Hummer brand to a Chinese company has been put on ice by the Chinese government.

Second, it looks like the government hugely overvalued “remnant” GM, judging by putting an equals sign between the government loan amounts and the equity stake percentage, then converting that into stock value.

Remember, while the original bailout help to automakers was on the Bush dime, cutting off the tap in order to push the General into a structured bankruptcy, and the terms of government involvement in that, are all Team Obama’s. And, these are the folks who miscalculated the size of the recession.

So, when the Obama Administration tries to pawn off a slower-than-it-planned GM resurgence in coming months, you know it’s not so.

Also related to Team Obama’s views about the future of the “new” GM, how does it square its plans for the General to get “greener and meaner” with GM CEO Fritz Henderson naming global warming denialist Bob Lutz its marketing bigwig? It can’t, and it will ignore that if pressed; but, nobody in the MSM will press it.

And, even “new” GM is unlikely to actually come out of bankruptcy for a full year or so. If the recession lasts longer, or recovery is more shallow than even new predictions, the General won’t be out until 2011. The “new” GM only.

So, if you believe Henderson can do it, when he says he intends to repay all government loans by 2015, then I have a brand-new 2009 Chevy Volt to sell you.

Holder to name BushCo special prosecutor?

Newsweek says Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush Administration torture of detainees, though Newsweek uses the euphemistic “brutal interrogation practices.” Four sources spoke on background, saying a decision one way or the other could come in a few weeks.

But, but, but…

Earlier, the story opens by noting AGs have in general stuggled to find the line between serving their country and serving their presidential bosses.

Color me skeptical, but, especially without knowing who these four sources are, it’s possible this is a deliberate leak, even as President Barack Obama himself battles Congress over a new intelligence bill’s parameters. A leak intended to be a sop to increasingly restless left-liberals and progressives, because of that, because of his expanse of “presidentialism” beyond even President Bush, and more.

(Update: Hold on, hold on indeed; evidence is mounting that Holder’s plan might be a sham and a head fake and this Newsweek story a bit of a fluff piece.)

In short, without knowing whether the four backgrounders are career civil service or political appointees, or a mix, I don’t know what angle the leak is from. And, Newsweek doesn’t enlighten us.

However, to be a bit less skeptical, it appears at least some of the four might be careerists. And, he supposedly has gotten him staff to compile a list of 10 potential nominees, five inside Justice and five outside.

So, what changed Holder’s mind, after he had seemed to let go of the idea a couple of months ago? Looking at the CIA IG’s report late last month.

And, he appears to have learned his “Marc Rich” lesson about maintaining independence from the White House, the story notes.

It’s a long, four-page story that talks about Holder’s first six months on the job in general, as well, so, give it a read.

‘Next big one’ closer to hitting SoCal?

Recent tremors under the San Andreas fault say its possible. Could you imagine a magnitude 8 quake hitting the Southland? (The area of fault near the Tejon Pass), just north of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north of LA, is the most likely location for the next truly big one.

LA with its housing bubble blown up, having already abandoned walkaways hit by the earthquake. The state too broke to do anything. Ugh.

‘New’ GM looks a lot like ‘old’ GM II

Beyond making global warming denialist Bob Lutz a centerpiece of its executive team, beyond not being like to actually come out of bankruptcy for a full year or so, remnant GM has many other problems.

First, that touted plan to sell cars on eBay? The online auction site says it has no agreement with GM at this time. And, with Lutz specifically designed to head GM’s marketing department, what will we see on eBay even if there is a deal? Suburbans and Tahoes?

And, if you believe CEO Fritz Henderson that he intends to repay all government loans by 2015, then I have a brand-new 2009 Chevy Volt to sell you.

That’s still not all of GM’s woes. Or, rather, it’s not all the woes of you or me, the U.S. taxpayer. Per my poll on this subject, below and in the right-hand rail, “old” GM may take a number of years to clear bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, it looks like the government hugely overvalued “remnant” GM, judging by putting an equals sign between the government loan amounts and the equity stake percentage, then converting that into stock value.

And, CNN has an explainer on what “remnant” GM will look like.


Free polls from Pollhost.com
How long will a GM bankruptcy take?
Three months Sixth months Nine months Twelve months Eighteen months   


Evidence mounts – North Korea army behind cyberattacks

Well, it looks like some U.S. media haven’t been probing American “security experts” hard enough about last week’s cyberattacks. The government of South Korea is gathering more evidence that the North Korean Army was behind the computer attacks on South Korean and U.S. government financial and national security websites and computers just before the Fourth of July.
Members of (South Korea’s) parliamentary intelligence committee have said in recent days that the National Intelligence Service has also pointed to a North Korean boast last month that it was “fully ready for any form of high-tech war.”

The spy agency told lawmakers Friday that a research institute affiliated with the North's Ministry of People's Armed Forces received an order to “destroy the South Korean puppet communications networks in an instant,” the mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported.

To me, it’s clear for the reasons I originally reported, that Washington doesn’t even want to discuss this because it’s kind of pooping its collective national security pants. Is it just “coincidence” that the Obama Administration proposed new cybersecurity legislation at the same time?

Anyway, since the WaPost, NYT, etc. aren’t covering the story with much depth, the AP story a must read.

As I blogged two days ago, and the mainstream media is finally catching up to, that’s the best explanation I can think of for cyberattacks that knocked out financial and national security websites in both the U.S. and South Korea over the Fourth of July.

And, here is the bottom line of why I said then that Washington was being tight-lipped:
Remember how North Korea partnered with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan to spread rocket technology and nuclear know-how? Don’t you doubt for a second that Pyongyang will sell this technology wherever possible.


Also, assuming my original rhetorical question about North Korean has a “yes” answer, U.S. and South Korean officials both have to be pooping their pants. The Kims, father and son, are both not the most mentally stable world leaders.

That is why Team Obama won’t say anything of substance.

At the same time, many South Koreans say they don’t like the hardline stance toward Pyongyang of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, elected in 2007.

Honduras mediation fruitless so far – any hope?

Interim President Robert Micheletti and ousted (ex)-President Manuel Zelaya both met with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Thursday — but separately, as the two both refuse to talk face-to-face. Not a good sign.

But, Micheletti’s camp still says it’s open to advancing the date of November elections. Positive signs like this are why I break with fellow left-liberals and their black-and-white castigation of what happened in Honduras as a “coup.”

What would be “movement” for me would be if a close Zelaya ally would be named the speaker of the Honduran Congress until elections. If Zelaya is representing progressivism in a general way, and not himself as the aggrandizement of progressivism, he’ll accept that, as a quarter-loaf for himself, and a half-loaf for the cause.

And, if this works, Edward Schumacher-Matos points out that the U.S. in general burnishes its Latin America image while Hugo Chavez is left holding the bag.

Elsewhere, Schumacher-Matos has a good wrap-up of how we got here, errors of the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court, and MUCH more. With comments like this:
Brodi Kemp, a researcher at Harvard's Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, says: “You could argue that Zelaya gave up his claim to moral legitimacy when he went outside the constitution. If you accept that, then what do the other political actors do? . . . Sometimes an act is legitimate even though it proceeded illegitimately.”

His column is well worth a read.

Weymouth-Brauchli continue to pass buck on Post salons

It looks like the dynamic duo, the Washington Post’s publisher and executive editor, respectively, are going to let Charles Pelton take most the heat on the Post’s ill-fated salons, while Post President Stephen Hills won’t even talk to his own reporters about it.
In an e-mailed statement Friday, Pelton said: “This is a new venture, there were some stumbles and too much of a rush to the finish. And I’ve taken responsibility for my part in this. However, I strongly believe that journalism must support more than a newspaper and a set of Web sites. It needs new avenues of expression — and revenue — and live events are just one of these.”

Some at The Post view Pelton as overly eager and not attuned to the newsroom’s ethical sensitivities. But Pelton raised questions about some of those very issues in a May 21 e-mail to Weymouth, Brauchli and Stephen P. Hills, The Post’s president and general manager. Pelton reports to Hills, who declined to be interviewed.

The salons evolved in other ways. Originally, the salon financiers, members of Congress, etc. would all be “on background.” Not good, but, at least you get comments. And, since just about everything reported out of Washington by the MSM today is “on background,” i.e., comments by people not named, and not directly quoted, in the real journalism world, this would be business as usual!

But, at some point, it went from “on background” to “off the record,” a whole different kettle of fish.

Meanwhile, the Post still has more than 200 managers? Wow. Maybe that’s part of why you’re losing $20 mil a quarter right there. Sounds like The Dallas Morning News — whack the folks on the front line, have the managers keep their jobs.

Cod Pink, war enabler

Dealing a full load of smackdown, Alec Cockburn says that “antiwar” activist group Code Pink is, in essence, becoming like a Gang Green enviro group and trading ideals for access to power by not protesting escalation of the war in Afghanistan. (Apologies for sending people to the icon of war, the F-22!)

Can we just junk the F-22?

Let Lockheed-Martin build drones for pennies on the F-22 dollar rather than continue to build this worthless piece of crap.
Pierre Sprey, a key designer in the 1970s and 1980s of the F-16 and A-10 warplanes, said that from the beginning, the Air Force designed it to be "too big to fail, that is, to be cancellation-proof.”

And, Congressional pushes, to buy more, more, more of this albatross, reflect Lockheed having subcontractors in almost every state. And, I’m sure some of those Congressmen also cite the recession as an excuse for more military pork.

Obama looks to throw a TARP over small biz

Whether or not it is wholly warranted as an economic decision, making small business eligible for Troubled Assets Relief Program assistance has to be seen as a political no brainer.

But, how do you target small businesses, who general have a higher failure rate, loan default rate, etc. than big companies, especially when the small businesses most in need of help fall most under those concerns?

In any case, on the political side, I’ll venture a guess that some sort of small-biz TARP gets rolled out before Michael Moore’s new movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” in October.

Why is Uncle Fester still getting Secret Service?

And, why is President Obama extending Che Ney’s men in black protection?

July 10, 2009

Perry names Lowe to chair SBOE; afraid of Kay?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry named Gail Lowe, publisher of the Lampasas Dispatch Record, to chair the State Board of Education. It’s better than Cynthia Dunbar, at least. A semi-chastized Rick Perry? Playing to more moderate Republicans because of Kay Bailey Cheerleader fears?

Of course, Lowe is not that much better than Dunbar, and her more easygoing personality and modicum of flexibility may lull some people to sleep as to just how ardent she is on not just creationism, but per the KERA link above, other education issues, too.

For example, she’s been right there with other board righties in trying to keep Cesar Chavez out of textbooks. And even Thurgood Marshall.

Somebody get Marty Peretz a rabies shot

The publisher of The New Republic is the latest winger to claim left-liberals want to exclude Christians from government. His “proof”? Objections to Obama’s naming Francis Collins to head NIH. The worry is not about Collins as a Christian. It’s that, among other things, Collins might use his particular evangelical beliefs, since he is very open about his religion, to influence genetic research decisions, federal funding for genetic research, etc. We saw exactly that happen under President Bush’s bioethics council, with stem-cell research.

The fact that, per Wiki, Collins believes in a “gOd of the gaps,” with gOd itself above gap-investigation, makes this problematic. Essentially, Collins’ metaphysical beliefs are mush, pure mush. And, if that makes his science soft, that’s problematic. What if he, without religious beliefs, but with the same mushy thought, signs off on spending more money on alt-medicine?

GM selling cars on eBay?

If this is another example of “new” GM brilliance, I’ll pass. It’s been done for years, so this is so non-new to be a yawner. Besides, nobody sells new cars on eBay, of those who do it.

So, we will see brand-new GMs next to 2002 Camrys, with about the same sales value, right?

Oh, and that touted plan to sell cars on eBay? The online auction site says it has no agreement with GM at this time. And, with global warming denialist Bob Lutz specifically designated to head GM’s marketing department, what will we see on eBay even if there is a deal? Suburbans and Tahoes?

Honduras non-coup and Article 239

Miguel Estrada does a good job explaining Article 239 of the Honduran constitution and how ex-President Manuel Zelaya was not the subject of a coup.
In addition, Article 239 specifically states that any president who so much as proposes the permissibility of reelection "shall cease forthwith" in his duties, and Article 4 provides that any "infraction" of the succession rules constitutes treason. The rules are so tight because these are terribly serious issues for Honduras, which lived under decades of military rule.

Unfortunately, Estrada doesn’t tackle the actions of the Honduran military since Zelaya was removed from office. And, per Talk Left, given Estrada’s childhood and family background in his native Honduras, he’s not exactly a disinterested observer, either.

Peggy Nooners latest con to kick Palin

And, Noonan delivers a better kicking than have most Democrats, liberal columnists, etc.

Nooners notes, among other things:
1. Elites (inside GOP) made her, rather than hating her;
2. She never has been “working class”
3. She’s a first-person using egotist.

Here’s your pull quote from the quite readable column:
She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.

She IS a bonbon, actually.

Palin quit for the money – Levi

Levi Johnston, Tripp Palin’s “baby daddy,” says quasi-mother-in-law Sarah Palin is quitting for the money — presumably, the money she can make on the speaking circuit, etc.

For the woman with the $100K wardrobe last year, THIS makes as much sense as anything. Even more than her quitting to duck Alaska’s looming financial crisis.

Of course, Palin’s fixers and hangers-on are already dumping on Levi.

D-FW shock jock Russ Martin pleads to assault

Although Martin had been trying to get a Southlake warrant suppressed, he today pled a nolo to assaulting his fiancée a year ago.

Baby got back and Obama got eye

OK, per Jimmy Carter, it was only in his eyeball, but President Barack Obama clearly had more than just climate control on his mind at the recent G8 summit. Pic at the link. And, will Carla Bruni be mad at Sarko, too?

That said, the video suggests Obama might not have been quite so blatant.

If I had seen this, noting that Greta von Susteren, true conservative, had “busted” the original pic, or this, I would have framed the post differently from the start. That said, I’m glad I didn’t run the picture myself.

And, I will confess — the NY Post having the pic gave me hesitation; I guess Rupert Murdoch’s sunk to a new low in fishing for controversy.

And, comparing the photo and video, you know can see that you can make a photo "lie" without any of the more technical tools of Photoshop, just by catching the photo at just the right, or wrong, time, and using nothing more than the digital version of old darkroom techniques.

Obama broken promise #512 rejected by House

The House of Representatives, by a massive 429-2 vote, rejected a presidential signing statement by Barack Obama, another thing he pledged to reverse course on, contra President Bush, and now hasn’t.
The amendment passed Thursday seeks to nullify Obama's signing statement by withholding funds from any agreement involving the Treasury Department that doesn't follow the conditions set out in the supplemental bill.

Now, can we see the House assert its “power of the purse” even more?

To stimulate or not to stimulate?

The Wall Street Journal has a news analysis story saying most of the 50-plus economists it surveyed oppose a second government stimulus bill. Some cite inflation as a concern. Others say the first stimulus has had little chance to take effect yet.

Krugman, looking first at wages, has a counterblast.

‘New’ GM sounds a lot like the ‘old’ GM

Per General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson’s news conference, the “new GM” sounds a lot like the old GM. Global warming denialist Bob Lutz “unretiring” to become a vice chairman responsible for creative elements of products, marketing and customer relationships? Yep, that’s got “change” and “creative” written all over it.

Henderson goes on to say this:
“If we don't get this right, nothing else is going to work,” Henderson said at GM's Downtown Detroit headquarters. “Business as usual is over at General Motors.”

Yeah, and your Internet customer interfacing sounds about 10 years out of date, too.

The New York Times has more on old vs. new GM, including things related to MY definition of GM coming fully out of bankruptcy, since the new GM is 61 percent government owned and is not expected to escape that until sometime next year — at earliest.

That then said, CNN has an explainer on what “remnant” GM will look like.

But, even it’s not entirely accurate. It still lists “old” GM’s Hummer division as a tentative sale when the Chinese government has pretty much put the kibosh on it.

Oh, and that touted plan to sell cars on eBay? The online auction site says it has no agreement with GM at this time. And, with Lutz specifically designed to head GM’s marketing department, what will we see on eBay even if there is a deal? Suburbans and Tahoes?

Things like that are another reason why I have a pessimistic personal answer on my poll.

I have yet more on old vs. new GM here.

Per my poll in the right-hand rail, and below, GM is not out of bankruptcy per my terms, as a taxpayer of the United States. Only when all of old GM is sold to private parties and the government of the United States is officially off the hook for any part of GM, “old” or “new,” does it cross the finish line I determined.


Free polls from Pollhost.com
How long will a GM bankruptcy take?
Three months Sixth months Nine months Twelve months Eighteen months   


UPS cust service has lies and contradictions

This is an update of an earlier blog post of mine, detailing first the foibles, and now the outright contradictory information, apparent anti-customer attitude and more, of UPS.

Nickel version of my original blog post: Friend buys me Starbucks, via its website, I presume, and ships. UPS is only shipper Starbucks uses. First day, driver either never hits my apt door or else doesn't leave note. Second day, driver will not leave package despite my being told I could leave a handwritten note absolving UPS of liability. Third day, driver won't leave pkg despite me, per further UPS instruction to sign back of official UPS note from second (first?) visit, absolving UPS of liability.

Well, the package is its way back to a warehouse in Ohio, unless I want to try an intercept on it. And, given UPS policies and delivery times, why? And, given contradictions, or possible lies, why?

UPS called this morning and said that yesterday counted as a third delivery attempt, even though the driver did not leave a second note, did not comment on my liability note, etc. I heard lies or contradictions on the phone today, too.

One was that it was a regular driver who made the first attempt. Either that was wrong today, or that was wrong two days ago, when I was told it wasn’t. Finally, the person who spoke to me today admitted that, whoever it was, he/she did not leave a UPS note.

The second was that they don’t leave boxes at apartment manager’s offices. Either that’s a lie, or a change in policy from three years ago.

The third is that it is OK to leave boxes at apartment doorsteps. If it isn't, then why was I told to sign a note to that effect in the first place?

In any case, they said the package was headed back to Ohio. The lady said I could do an intercept on it, but I’m in no mood to do anything but write UPS another 500-character limited webmail. With a link to this blog post as part of that.

And, yes, it's hard to say much in 500 characters, counting spaces. Between that, and UPS not having phone numbers to call listed in its website, I have to conclude that it is deliberately anti-customer service. And, since it claims it will not deliver to apartment manager's offices, despite having done so in the past, I am telling people never use UPS and absolutely never use it to ship to an apartment. I am also telling people that if a third-party company shipping is UPS only, no options, like Starbucks, then don't buy from that company.

Brooks: Healthcare bills don’t address costs

Nobody amongst Washington’s elected establishment wants to use the words “cost containment,” let alone “rationing,” for either describing the problems with our current healthcare system, or what needs to be part of national healthcare. David Brooks does a pretty decent job of taking on medical costs in today’s America as well as noting how healthcare bills in Congress aren’t written to rein it in.
As Alec MacGillis reported in a front-page piece in The Washington Post this week, “All signs in Washington suggest that cost considerations will be kept at arm’s length as health-care legislation moves forward.” As my colleague David Leonhardt wrote in his column this week, “The current health care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient,” and health care economists don’t see the current bills doing enough to fix that.

That said, the column’s not prefect. Brooks fails to note that this lack of cost control starts with inflated med school costs. (It takes about twice as much money to go to med school here as in much of Western Europe.) But, that won’t fit his free market system. If we’re going to address this issue, we have to start at the bottom.

I suspect that U.S. medical schools have become ever-more like hospitals — buying new equipment, etc., to compete with each other.

Uighur mortis

I apologize to any regular readers for not posting more about Beijing’s crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang, which the Chinese government is treating more and more like Tibet — encouraging Han ethnics to move in, Mandarin-language domination, careful control without full suppression of local religion, etc. And, the central government allowing Han rioting against Uighurs furthers all of these aims, with Beijing then belatedly stepping in to “control” the issue.

Xinjiang, unlike Tibet, has no leader as famous as the Dalai Lama. Nor has it the U.S. celebrity support of Tibet. And, newer on the radar screen, complicated by allegations in the past of Uighur involvement with Afghanistan’s Taliban, Uighur issues have less support from Washington than do Tibetan ones.

Add to that a swelling American deficit and Washington looking warily at its Chinese financiers of said deficit, and, it’s unlikely President Kumbaya is going to do too much.

10 pct unemployment for a full year?

That’s the word from a majority of 51 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal about whether or not President Obama and Congress should offer a second stimulus bill.
On average, the economists forecast an unemployment rate of at least 10 percent through next June, with a decline to 9.5 percent by December 2010.

And yet, for a variety of reasons, most of these economists oppose a second stimulus.

Gay – get an Army boot; skinhead – get an Army pass

Whether top Army brass will do anything about it or not, Stars and Stripes reveals just how deep and numerous skinheads, neo-Nazis, etc. are, inside U.S. armed forces. Private-sector journalists have already reported on how military recruiters turn blind eyes to things like swastika tattoos as part of meeting recruiting goals, and how, at the same time, the violently inclined among these groups want the military training.

In short, the U.S. military, and Department of Defense civilians who aren’t acting either, are supporting the development of home-grown terrorism.

Will the real PA Dem please stand up?

Recent party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter, a registered Democrat decades ago, is pinning the carpetbagger label on second-term Rep. Joe Sestak, his declared primary challenger for next year. In a campaign that will surely get nastier and more personal before its done, that’s just one of many charges and countercharges piling up.

That said, Sestak doesn’t have much of an accomplishments record yet, and, as a career military man, there’s no guarantee he’d be more liberal than Specter on a number of social issues.

GOP – Palin stay home!

Looks like a lot of more vulnerable 2010 GOP candidates are already saying they don’t want Sarah Palin’s “help” on the campaign trail.
“There’s others that I would have come in and campaign and most of them would be my colleagues in the House,” (Nebraska Rep. Lee) Terry said.

Others, like Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, say they want an explanation of why the Quitter with a Twitter™ actually quit (guess they’re not buying her explanation at her presser) before they want her on their turf.

Well, Pete, she’s the type of bull in a china shop, if she wants to show up in your district, she’ll probably show up whether you want her to or not, on terms you want or not.

I would guess that the Iowa GOP didn’t ask around when they talked about inviting her, unless it’s OK with an in-house primary-season only carnival roadshow.

But, the general election? Boo-hoo, Sarah, they don't want you.

No Dallas recession for Allstate

“You’ve got good hands in your wallet” should be Allstate’s new slogan, after it just announced a 6.2 percent rate hike for North Texas homeowners. Of course, Dallas gets off light; Houston is going up 15 percent.

And, Allstate’s not the worst insurer on this in the Dallas area, either.

Bubba doesn’t walk enough

According to Time, it’s not just all those chicken-fried steaks and biscuits smothered with country gravy that have Bubba carrying around a spare monster truck tire. isn’t walking much to move that tire around.

Some of the Time observations are spot on: Fewer bus routes mean less walking to buses. Narrower roads means less biking, for general safety sake and for redneck-types (or urban minority types here in Dallas, too) yelling out the doors while driving six inches away, etc.

But others? Like heat and humidity?

You don’t see a lot of fat Brazilians or Congolese, do you?

Instead, let’s blame air-conditioning for encouraging Southern refusal to get outside and do more.

Besides, if people are like monkeys on eating, cut back the chicken-frieds to add years to your life.

GM clearing bankruptcy – on paper

Update, July 11: I have yet more on old vs. new GM here, and here.

A federal bankruptcy court has officially OKed an old GM-new GM split for the formerly Big Three carmaker General Motors.

But, per my poll in the right-hand rail, GM is not out of bankruptcy per my terms, as a taxpayer of the United States. Only when all of old GM is sold to private parties and the government of the United States is officially off the hook for any part of GM, “old” or “new,” does it cross the finish line I determined.

The New York Times has more on old vs. new GM, including things related to MY definition of GM coming fully out of bankruptcy, since the new GM is 61 percent government owned and is not expected to escape that until sometime next year — at earliest.

Update:Well, per CEO Fritz Henderson’s news conference, the “new GM” sounds a lot like the old GM. Global warming denialist Bob Lutz “unretiring” to become a vice chairman responsible for creative elements of products, marketing and customer relationships? Yep, that’s got “change” and “creative” written all over it.

Oh, and that touted plan to sell cars on eBay? The online auction site says it has no agreement with GM at this time. And, with Lutz specifically designed to head GM’s marketing department, what will we see on eBay even if there is a deal? Suburbans and Tahoes?

July 09, 2009

‘New media’ acts just like MSM on ‘access’ – Politico!

Looks like Politico needs to shut its own yap after slapping down the Washington Post over its salons. A reporter from Politico, Mike Allen, was among those attending President Obama’s off-the-record 4th of July BBQ for the WH press corps, and has now been busted.
When Allen quoted from the pool report in his Playbook column the next day, he deleted a reference to his own name and didn't bother to tell his readers that he was actually at the party.

Yep, sounds like something the “old media” would do.

Michael Moore announces latest flick – Obama beware?

“Capitalism: A Love Story” will be about the financial bailout, and already has a release date slated for October, a year and a day after the bailout legislation was approved.

I think, GOP be damned, Democratic Congressmen be damned, President Barack Obama had better hope the economy is doing a LOT better in October, or that he has a second stimulus package, AND that he’s actually tightened up his Swiss cheese financial regulation bill by then. (That said, I hope Moore has no more problem going after neolib Dems than he does Republicans.)

Can NYT make $5 web access stick?

Bloomberg reports the Old Gray Lady is looking at starting a $5 a month web access fee, possibly with lower rates for print subscribers. Mobile users reportedly might be charged first because of the difficulty of getting ads on cell-phone sized screens.

It’s the “right” price, especially if you give print subscribers a discount. (I have a magazine that just rolls that into your print price.) And, the NYT has enough stuff it generates itself. That said, to do it right, it has to apply to the NYT Mag, Review of Books, etc. There’s your most dedicated readership.

Don’t use UPS – and don’t ship Starbucks except on your own

Why? (Updated at bottom.)

A friend sent me a package — Starbucks. The driver Tuesday, new to the route, never showed at my apartment. My friend e-mails, and when I say, “no show,” she calls the UPS 1-800 tracking number, gives them my cell, and is told they will call me.

Nope; never happens.

Today? Dallas office calls after I call 1-800 number. A person there said if I left a note with my signature, the package tracking number, and the note saying “leave package at door, I accept liability,” the driver would leave it. Well, the driver DIDN’T leave it. Just left standard UPS note.

I call 1-800, raise hell. UPS delivery manager said to sign the back of UPS note to same end as my original note, and the driver will leave the package. We’ll see.

But, wait, that’s not all!

My friend said Starbucks never sent her the promised tracking number at time of shipping. An agent said she’s resend, but never did, so she had to look up the order herself.

Moral? Ship stuff yourself, rather than via third-party company shipping.

And, be a good laborite, as well. Use the U.S. Postal Service instead of FedEx.

Update, July 9: I sign the back of the official UPS note, etc. Leave at my apartment. I come back from the DeSoto library at 8 p.m. NO PACKAGE! Again!

Call 1-800 tracking number. Really unload. Tell person to pass on to Dallas office that I'm a newspaper editor. She claims there was a delivery attempt. Well, either the driver is a liar, incompetent to not take the note, can't read English as an immigrant, or is an illiterate American. She says somebody from Dallas will call me by 10 a.m.

I just e-mailed my friend:
If I don’t get it today (Friday), I suggest you tell Starbucks to cancel UPS shipping AND order. If it is non-responsive, tell them you’ll refuse to pay, if you used credit.


Update 2, July 10: Well, the package is its way back to a warehouse in Ohio, unless I want to try an intercept on it. And, given UPS policies and delivery times, why? And, given contradictions, or possible lies, why?

UPS called this morning and said that yesterday counted as a third delivery attempt, even though the driver did not leave a second note, did not comment on my liability note, etc. I heard lies or contradictions on the phone today, too.

One was that it was a regular driver who made the first attempt. Either that was wrong today, or that was wrong two days ago, when I was told it wasn’t. Finally, the person who spoke to me today admitted that, whoever it was, he/she did not leave a UPS note.

The second was that they don’t leave boxes at apartment manager’s offices. Either that’s a lie, or a change in policy from three years ago.

The third is that it is OK to leave boxes at apartment doorsteps. If it isn't, then why was I told to sign a note to that effect in the first place?

In any case, they said the package was headed back to Ohio. The lady said I could do an intercept on it, but I’m in no mood to do anything but write UPS another 500-character limited webmail. With a link to this blog post as part of that.

New Iran election protest springs from nowhere

Or so it would seem, on today’s Tehran protest. I think this shows several things.

1. Via Twitter and other electronic means, plus some old-fashioned legwork, protestors have become even more organized than they were a couple of weeks ago.
2. With even older people protesting, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Basijis have not been able to impose total fear.
3. The protest is spontaneous enough to indicate neither opposition presidential candidate Mir Mousavi nor Grand Ayatollah Rafsanjani is controlling it.
4. It’s still relatively peaceful, but unafraid to fight back.

And, those points all have to be of concern to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.

Government sued over energy corridors

In what could be a major battle for today and tomorrow as well, that between environmental preservation and the development of Western-states energy resources, a variety of enviro groups have sued Obama Administration entities over power corridor siting in the West.
“It doesn’t make any sense for the agencies to invest all of this time and energy into a network of corridors that must be obsolete very soon if we’re going avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the 15 plaintiffs.

True enough as a stand-alone statement, Ms. Atwood. But, we’re going to face some of those same issues in the future, in the Southwest, over how to run electricity from solar and wind sites in the desert to the area’s big cities.

Arias – Honduras is wake-up call on bloated militaries

In words that could apply to many countries of Latin America, whether governed from the left (Venezuela) or right (Columbia) Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner deplores the bloated size of military establishments in his region.

Too bad he stopped short of applying that observation to the Yanquis.

The Nation has narrow definition of ‘The Left’

At The Nation, Eyal Press “kindly” defines left-liberals like this, in talking about a Rachel Maddow show episode where she expressed the left’s dissatisfaction with President Obama:
Maddow, presumably, was referring to a much smaller cohort of self-identified (white) progressives: people who favor a single-payer universal health-care system, have attended antiwar demonstrations, believe catastrophic global warming is imminent, support shutting down Guantanamo immediately, champion full equality for gays and lesbians, and perhaps supported John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primary before finally coming around to Obama.

So, I guess Green voters don’t even count, not on the pages of The Nation? The same mag that has never endorsed a third-party presidential candidate during all the time I’ve read it?

As long as The Nation decides to keep both feet planted inside the Donkey’s ass, when push comes to shove, it loses a certain amount of relevance.

Maybe I should submit this to the Carnival of the Liberals for one final rejection!

BLM wild burros go to war

A group of wild donkeys rounded up off BLM land in are being trained to be Marine pack animals in Afghanistan.

Given that sometimes, “Brighty of the Grand Canyon” is taken too much to heart by some people, I’m surprised we haven’t had PETA shitting bricks over this one yet.

French win title of world’s worst tourists

Beating even Americans, no less. Why? Beyond rude and arrogant, they know little of either local languages or English when on the road. (But, if Mandarin ever becomes the world’s lingua franca, I guess they’ll get more of a challenge from Americans, then.)

Are independents leaving Obama?

White House staff are poo-pooing any such poll claims, as you would expect, but take that with a grain of salt.

Beyond that, the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s races likely aren’t a total reflection on Obama. But, a partial reflection? Sure. No WH spin can hide that.

Sotomayor – strong insights but ‘anal’

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is definitely up to Supreme Court snuff on constitutional law issues, according to the Brennan Center, but a Washington Post review of the “granular” level of her appellate decision-making finds here a bit anal, for doing and reduplicating trial-court level details. Even that, though, was not found to be necessariliy “bad” by every legal expert interviewed in the Post story.

Tom Coburn in GOP Pants Watch, accessory division

Turns out GOP Sen. Tom Coburn knew about colleague John Ensign’s affair with a staffer, John Hampton, the staffer’s husband, says in a video interview, confronted him at a now-famous C Street politico-religious retreat, and suggested the payoff idea that Ensign actually did. (Column based on transcript is here.)

Politico has more, including a statement from Coburn’s office shitting on Ensign. Coburn’s shitting on Hampton now, too.

You know, it’s almost more fun when an accessory like Coburn gets exposed than when an Ensign himself is.

Hmm, will he get a GOP primary challenger in Oklahoma?

More on the media’s sale of ‘access’

Yesterday, I blogged a bit about this issue, starting with noting that the Atlantic Monthly was selling access, access, access, as Jack Shafer reminds us.

And, I noted that this drug is as addicting inside the Beltway to the editorial side of newsrooms as it is to the business/marketing wing. That’s why, at the Washington Post, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli apparently signed off at first. It was only after he realized that this drug “access” would only be dispensed by the business side that he got all huffy.

More on that?

“Access” if part of why reporters inside the Beltway are OK with all their “on background” comments from White House staff, Cabinet department staff, etc. It’s not just the government that wants to control “access,” it’s the MSM.

First, it gets to hang on to scraps of its self-appointed “priesthood” function that way. Second, competing “priests” try to keep opposing press “sects” away from the inner sanctums of their temples.

Within the temples, at the biggest papers, you have different “denominations” whose leaders may control “access” from one another, even.

All this leads back to Brauchli’s bitchfest.

I can think of multiple grounds for concern.

1. He didn’t want to be herding cats amongst his own reporters.
2. He was worried about leaks from the business side, exposing Post sources to other papers, even though a lot of them are common to the New York Times, other papers still flush enough to afford larger DC bureaus, the AP, etc.
3. He was worried that like, when Pompey invaded Jerusalem and pulled back the curtain on the Holy of Holies, we would find nothing inside.

Want more evidence of media as high priests? Gene Lyons has some smackdown.

Update:It looks like the dynamic duo, the Washington Post’s publisher and executive editor, respectively, are going to let Charles Pelton take most the heat on the Post’s ill-fated salons, while Post President Stephen Hills won’t even talk to his own reporters about it.

GOP analysts still question Palin move

The latest to weigh in on the “shot herself in the foot” side is GOP political consultant Mike Murphy, who has worked for Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, both rumored as 2012 presidential candidates, among others.

The biggest “tell” from Murphy is that, from GOP inside baseball, he says a lot of her “Alaska populism” was Democratic-based. No. 2 is his comment running Alaska is one of the easiest gubernatorial gigs around. And she quit.

Say permanent bye-bye to 401(k) bucks?

At least, kiss a permanent goodbye to an employer match on it, perhaps.

Instead, companies could use their former match to pay for other benefits, or tie matching to company profit margins. And, yes, in many cases, as the story reports, the match amount or percentage is discretionary.

First stimulus must be ironed out before second is considered?

Major cities not getting a fair share of Obama stimulus transportation money. Some states not fully organized on how to spend it, or where. Other states and cities overwhelmed with stimulus money for particular programs. Hack-job reporting of alleged politicization of state-by-state federal stimulus payouts, even though any idiot knows that “blue states” have been most hurt by the recession.

President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats will have to address both the reality and the political “reality” behind these issues before floating a second stimulus bill, if they do.

On the cities article, the political angle is that Obama can bypass governors, or lean on them with the bully pulpit, and get political capital not just from reliable Democrats but suburban swing voters. On the other stuff, short of the “hack-job reporting,” streamlining and clarifying federal stimulus rules would make him look like the good neolib he is. Giving states a sop of flexibility on a few issues, especially if they send more transportation dinero to cities, would butter up governors.

And, if it’s true that independents are starting to back off their Obama support, it means that he has to consider some of these political issues.

Democrats divided on second stimulus; ‘tripwire’ looms

There’s several reasons for this division, which is partially focused on House-Senate lines.

The more “measured” Senate already has plenty on its plate, compared to the House. Democratic leaders in both Houses don’t want to get ahead of Obama in general, or stick their political necks out in particular, among other things.

Meanwhile, Mark Penn, of all political people, weighs in with his thoughts. With an eye on polling, he suggests a second stimulus could focus on direct federal cash to state governments, among other things. But, given that Team Obama has already said no bailout for the Leaden State, this would be hard, too. But, he stresses that 10 percent unemployment could be a “tripwire” for the administration.

National healthcare still seeks Senate Dem consensus

As The New Republic reports, unions continue to resist any tax on private health insurance benefits, even if only top-end benefits, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus continues to not clearly hear Majority Leader Harry Reid’s telling him to stop chasing GOP votes.

I think Baucus has a good idea on this one, whether or not it’s for chasing GOP votes. And, while I support the need for unions — and strong ones — in many ways, American unions have opposed national healthcare for nearly 60 years now, ever since Harry Truman made a serious push for it. Unions have always, ever since getting generous health insurance in WWII, regarded insurance benefits as a recruiting tool. Well, with private sector unionization in single digits, that’s not working too well, is it?

Elsewhere, Cohn makes a good case for at least some tax on the benefits. And, I’ll add to it. Remember, these benefits replace pay raises that couldn’t be awarded during WWII, so we have good reason to treat them like pay. And, if we did so, the gig would be up for insurance companies getting a tax-free ride, too.

But, if you’re NOT going to tax healthcare benefits, then what? Well, Senate Democrats are batting that one around. High-end income tax? New “sin” taxes? Smoke and mirrors?

The real problem was that stuff that should have been hammered out behind closed doors between Reid, Baucus, Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Ted Kennedy’s No. 2, Chris Dodd, and a group of no more than four-five other Senators, plus a high-level Obama representative, all in one room.

Not getting Team Obama to commit to getting its legislative hands at least a bit soiled was part of the problem. Team Obama not getting itself to have one voice is even worse.

Obama wants more CIA deception of even Congress

Even as Congressional Democrats complain the CIA has deceived Congress for years, even producing a letter by CIA director Leon Panetta as evidence, President Barack Obama threatens to veto the pending Intelligence Authorization Bill if it keeps a provision expanding information about covert actions to the entire House and Senate Intelligence Committees, rather than the “Gang of Eight” — the party leaders of both houses of Congress and the two Intelligence Committees.

Why? The usual Obama suspects. State secrets and executive privilege.

G8 climate hypocrisy

So, the G8 sets a temperature ceiling a 2C temperature ceiling the day after rejecting fixed targets for CO2 reductions.

Well, short of EPA global warming denier Chaplin’s plan for engineering the atmosphere with particulates, the only way you meet a fixed temperature target is with a fixed greenhouse-gas emissions target.

But, the 2C target had nothing about specific emissions.

North Korea – cyberterrorist or not?

As I blogged two days ago, and the mainstream media is finally catching up to, that’s the best explanation I can think of for cyberattacks that knocked out financial and national security websites in both the U.S. and South Korea over the Fourth of July.

And, here's what the MSM is saying.

The Washington Post says it has the earmarks of North Korea, also citing South Korean official government suspicions.

But Reuters says, wait a minute, citing experts who claim the attacks did not originate from computers inside North Korea, claiming the attacks were “unsophisticated,” too, for North Korea.

Update, July 11: Well, it looks like some U.S. media haven’t been probing American “security experts” hard enough about last week’s cyberattacks. The government of South Korea is gathering more evidence that the North Korean Army was behind the computer attacks on South Korean and U.S. government financial and national security websites and computers just before the Fourth of July.

On the other hand, back to the Post story, cyberexperts there note that, alongside the “amateurish” part was the high volume of the attack, something most amateurs could’t deliver.

Now, in contrast to South Korea, U.S. government officials are still being tight-lipped,

If my question has a “yes” answer, U.S. and South Korean officials both have to be pooping their pants. The Kims, father and son, are both not the most mentally stable world leaders.

And, remember how North Korea partners with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan to spread rocket technology and nuclear know-how? Don’t you doubt for a second that Pyongyang will sell this technology wherever possible.

DeSoto (Texas) losing war on graffiti?

Dallas suburb DeSoto, of the Best Southwest, needs to get its public works people, or whomever, busy!

The Town Center complex, housing city hall and other buildings, abuts Ten Mile Creek, with the Roy Orr Trail for hikers and walkers creekside.

A number of its concrete abutments are graffiti-infested. Some old spots have had graffiti removed, but it looks like that was six months or more ago. It’s an eyesore in the making.

July 08, 2009

Is North Korea into cyberterror?

That’s the best explanation I can think of for cyberattacks that knocked out financial and national security websites in both the U.S. and South Korea over the Fourth of July.

Now, government officials are being tight-lipped, for obvious reasons, but there’s no other country I can think of that would target us and South Korea and nobody else.

If my question has a “yes” answer, U.S. and South Korean officials both have to be pooping their pants. The Kims, father and son, are both not the most mentally stable world leaders.

And, remember how North Korea partners with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan to spread rocket technology and nuclear know-how? Don’t you doubt for a second that Pyongyang will sell this technology wherever possible.

Update, July 9: Finally, just a couple of days after I mentioned the idea, the MSM is catching up on the possible North Korea angle.

The Washington Post says it has the earmarks of North Korea, also citing South Korean official government suspicions.

But Reuters says, wait a minute, citing experts who claim the attacks did not originate from computers inside North Korea, claiming the attacks were “unsophisticated,” too, for North Korea.

On the other hand, back to the Post story, cyberexperts there note that, alongside the “amateurish” part was the high volume of the attack, something most amateurs could’t deliver.

Update No. 2, July 11: Well, it looks like some U.S. media haven’t been probing American “security experts” hard enough about last week’s cyberattacks. The government of South Korea is gathering more evidence that the North Korean Army was behind the computer attacks on South Korean and U.S. government financial and national security websites and computers just before the Fourth of July.

Cornyn sez GOP will present own healthcare option

Starting with your very own free GOP blood pressure cuff for the “ownership society”?

No, seriously, John Cornyn says the Senate GOP will present its own healthcare reform option.

State-based solutions? That means Texas/South becomes El Cheapo on this like on other, related issues. CHIPs, anybody? Beyond that, Cornyn’s smoke and mirrors offered no details.

So, let’s call his bluff. Visit his website and send him a webmail demanding specifics of his “program.” I did:
Sen. Cornyn, stop being dishonest.

As a newspaper editor and a blogger, I insist and demand that, if you have a **specific** healthcare reform option to that of Senate Democrats, you present it. A vague claim of “state-based initiatives” without any details is nothing but posturing to a political base that you apparantly fear losing after your tea-party booing last week.

There you go.

Meanwhile, Cornyn offers the best reason yet for MoveOn to keep running its advocacy ads:
“You are beginning to see some fissures and fractures on the Democratic side on the public option, the play-or-pay mandates, and controversial issues like that,” Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a conference call Wednesday with reporters.

Oh, send the National Republican Senatorial Committee $100 and you get your very own free GOP blood pressure cuff for the “ownership society.”

Morgan Stanley, learning nothing, tries to sell sh*t as AAA again

And, if it gets away with this piece of crap, look for yet another financial bubble to start. It’s no wonder Morgan Stanley folks refused to comment to Bloomberg.

Cedar Hill kicker says ‘Souueee – go Hogs’

Placekicker Eddi Camara from Cedar Hill (Texas) High, just a junior but already considered one of the best kickers in the country, has given oral commitment to Arkansas.

Murphy leads DADT repeal fight

Second-term Congressman Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War vet, is leading the fight to repeal the don’t ask, don’t tell rule on gays in the military.

Frankly, I’m still of the opinion that, even though the DADT started with Congressional legislation, that President Obama could repeal it by executive order, as Truman did with desegregating the armed forces. But, at least somebody is taking up the Congressional cudgels.

Obama now WORSE than Bush on indefinite detention

Glenn Greenwald has the details on how the Obama Administration is claiming the right to indefinitely detain once-alleged terrorists even after they are acquitted at trial.

Kafka. “Darkness at Noon.” Whatever you want to say.

Massachusetts sues feds over DOMA – OK not great

YES! Much better than the California lesbian couple who didn’t get married before Proposition 8 was upheld by the California Supreme Court, a Commonwealth of Massachusetts suit against the Defense of Marriage Act is likely to get legal standing.
The lawsuit argues that the DOMA, which was enacted in 1996, precludes same-sex spouses in Massachusetts from a wide range of protections, including federal income tax credits, employment and retirement benefits, health insurance coverage, and Social Security payments.

Federal courts who are not too reticent about refusing to give individual civil plaintiffs standing aren’t likely to bump a state on a constitutional issue.

BUT… but… but…

There’s a downside. Massachusetts is deliberately avoiding raising the “full faith and credit clause” of the U.S. Constitution in challenging DOMA:
The lawsuit questions the constitutionality of Section 3 of the law, which defines the word "marriage" for the purpose of federal law as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." It does not challenge the constitutionality of Section 2, which provides that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Instead, the challenge is only to the conservative-beloved 10th Amendment.

Read, definitely read, the whole thing. See if you think it’s the right, narrowly-phrased, legal strategy and whether it stands a chance at the Supreme Court.

My angle is that if SCOTUS wants to slap down the state of Massachusetts on this issue, it will find a way to do so, no matter how narrowly tailored the suit is. And, the suit, if won, would theoretically apply only in Massachusetts, and not guarantee people married in Massachusetts would be considered married if they moved elsewhere.

What Atlantic and WaPost REALLY sell at salons

It was access, access, access, as Jack Shafer reminds us.

And, that drug is as addicting inside the Beltway to the editorial side of newsrooms as it is to the business/marketing wing. That’s why, at the Washington Post, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli apparently signed off at first. It was only after he realized that this drug “access” would only be dispensed by the business side that he got all huffy.

The ‘compassionate’ Bob McNamara – and LBJ

If you’re looking for a sardonic laugh, read this dead-serious NYT column about the “compassionate” Robert Strange McNamara.

No, there was no “compassion” behind trying to “save” Southeast Asia from the domino effect, Mr. Philip Bobbitt, because the domino effect wasn’t true (which the U.S. could and should have known), and we could have made better salvation efforts through peaceful means anyway.

Of course, Bobbit, being LBJ’s nephew, ultimately isn’t interested in McNamara’s reputation; he’s turd-polishing for his uncle.

Dowd cracks Sarah Palin’s diary

Snark value aside, I’m not at all shocked that one hellcat would go after another like this. Give it a read, though. Maureen Dowd is both spot-on and has hit her Peter Principle groove.

What’s behind those all-glass floors and buildings?

Well, plain old glass can be taught a variety of new chemistry and physics tricks to allow for not only glass floors, but even glass beams in skyscrapers. And, the engineering investigations continue to ramp up.

Immigration reform still volatile

Even the trick of punting immigration reform to a national commission hasn’t lessened Republican-Democrat or business-labor wrangling over the issue.

Nonetheless, some lines of agreement are emerging. “Earned legalization, not amnesty” is one. Some freeing of quotas on work-related visas is another.

Beyond that, though, it’s still tough sledding.

The lies of Sarah Palin

Andrew Sullivan does yeoman’s work and compiles them all into one list; he’s got more than 30.

A Google OS? No thanks

Well, it looks like Google is ready to put in place the final brick of its cloud computing master plan.

Now, right now, the Google Chrome Operating System is only for netbooks. But, if it has any success, it will be scaled up into a version for traditional computers. Or, Plan B, it could team with netbook makers to market them to replace more and more laptops or even desktops.

And, from the company that’s now charging for its Google Apps, which means pay up to free your Google Docs from permanent bondage, do you really trust the company that’s becoming Microsoft 2.0?

Germany also wrong way to do stimulus

The G8 members continue to disagree over how to address the global recession. Yes, we all understand hyperinflation, but that happened in Germany 85 years ago. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deficit reduction worries might be a bit too much.

US – how not to do economic stimulus

Evidence mounts that through either timidity or cluelessness, Team Obama didn’t get it right. On the timidity side, the Obama Administration has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, giving the GOP a chance to say, “I told you so, now let’s have a tax cut.”

And, now, with national healthcare, climate change and a SCOTUS nomination all lining up for Senate landing rights, overcoming GOP naysayers on a second stimulus program won’t be easy.

France shows right way to do govt stimulus

With a $37 billion euro economic stimulus package, and this from a conservative government, no less, France is doing government stimulus the right way. First, have projects “shovel-ready.” Part of that is through €100 million to repair French cultural sites.
“America is six months behind; it has wasted a lot of time,” said Patrick Devedjian, the minister in charge of the French relance, or stimulus. By the time Washington gets around to doling out most of its money, Mr. Devedjian sniffed, “the crisis could be over.”

So, whether or not Europe as a whole is being less aggressive than the US on stimulus spending, that’s not true of France.

Meanwhile, evidence mounts that through either timidity or cluelessness, Team Obama didn’t get it right. On the timidity side, the Obama Administration has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, giving the GOP a chance to say, “I told you so, now let’s have a tax cut.”

Porn with plots?

Yep, that’s another thing ruined by the Internet — pornography with plot lines. Who knew?
“On the Internet, the average attention span is three to five minutes,” said Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment. “We have to cater to that.”

But “actresses” like Savanna Sampson want movies with what, seven minute stretches to actually squeeze in dialogue.

EU worries about US-China climate deal

While European Union members applaud the Waxman-Markey bill as showing a clear U.S. focus on long-term climate issues they still deplore the lack of short-term goals. And, as 17 industrial nations hold a climate meeting in Italay Thursday before the start of the G8 meeting, the EU still worries about a separate US-China round of climate talks.

At the same time, the EU isn’t totally in a position to talk, as, at that L’Aquila meeting, EU member states within the group, along with others, agreed to drop a requirement that the world halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The New York Times has more on the backtrack.

The Bell Curve 2.0: First excerpts

For the past several years, Charles Murray has been working on a shocking sequel to his shocking-enough book about race and intelligence, “The Bell Curve,”

As I blogged here, Murray worked on the book from two angles, both designed to try to refute his critics, who said he woefully underestimated environmental influences of various types on expressions of intelligence, as well as the class-based structure of common IQ tests.

Murray’s first angle was to look at class and intelligence. For various reasons, that led him to Great Britain. His second angle was to analyze people from a clearly genetically-controlled population, one readily definable and not subject to social changed. For a man not afraid of controversy, homosexuals made an ideal population group.

Looking at homosexuals moving from Great Britain to the United States, with a focus on intelligence, Murray naturally had Andrew Sullivan squarely in his cross-hairs.

And, now, we have our first set of excerpts from the book.

Quoting Charles Murray:
Andrew never did know how much Marty Peretz and I were leading him down the primrose path of his almost blank-check endorsement of “The Bell Curve,” and his almost cult-like insistence that the entire editorial staff of The New Republic sign off on that endorsement.
It’s ironic isn’t it, especially in light of the fracas over the Middle East [see Murray’s online appendix for additional comments on the Iran elections] that forcing this endorsement down TNR staff’s collective throat led to what he probably, today, considers a “neoconservative takeover.” I certainly found it ironic, given his agreement with me about how smart Jews are.

And, although Mr. Sullivan refers to himself as British, we know he’s really Irish by ethnicity. Given how few intellects Erin has produced, it is not surprising that, in his lust to be considered an intellectual, despite the huge genetic basis for intelligence, both within individuals and within ethnic groups, he never stopped to consider that he was hiking uphill on this issue.
Sullivan was unavailable for interviews or response.

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.

Dallas housing market OK for longer term or not?

A new study says the Metroplex has little risk of home prices being lower two years from now.

But, but, but, the Dallas housing market was in the tank for the second quarter.

Of most concern, I think, is that new housing starts are off even more than new home sales from a year ago. And, the market is still oversupplied.

So, is the study correct, or not?

Well, I guess area homeowners will see … two years from now.

In praise of decaf

If, like me, you like real coffee, not Folgers in a can, and like real coffee on a real, regular basis, but can’t stand too much caffeine, here’s some good reading on the four different decaffeination processes, from one of the co-founders of Starbucks. (Note the hype he points out one process.)

Also, which I did not know dark roasts actually aren’t much lower in caffeine.

Nobelist Arias offers to mediate Honduras

The offer of mediation in Honduras’ political difficulties by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is certainly both noble and sincere, but not highly likely of success, I don’t think. Ousted (ex-)president Manuel Zelaya demands he be restored to office as a precondition of talks, while interim President Roberto Micheletti says no way, no how.

But, both plan to show up in Costa Rica Thursday. No “winners” so far in Honduras, and may not be any for some time.

But there is one cleaer winner overall, Hugo Chavez. He gets to burnish his diplomatic and foreign policy credentials, stand close to Obama, and more, as the story notes.

July 07, 2009

Dallas housing market tanking

Well, Gov. Helmethair, aka Tricky Ricky Perry, can talk all he wants about the resilience of the Texas economy, but the Dallas housing market puts the lie to that claim.

Of most concern, I think, is that new housing starts are off even more than new home sales from a year ago. And, the market is still oversupplied.

But, a study says the Metroplex has little risk of home prices being lower two years from now.

Well, I guess area homeowners will see … two years from now.

The man who broke AIG

Vanity Fair, fresh off of smoking Sarah Palin, has a much more in-depth piece on Joseph Cassano, the man who led AIG’s financial products unit into the toilet.

Cassano, without using the mathematical models of his predecessor, became willing to take on ever more risk, and to apply corporate risk modeling to consumer financial risk, in a very small nutshell.

And AIG CEO Hank Greenberg and the board apparently either didn’t know, or didn’t want to know, what he was doing. Nor did Greenberg’s successor, as, ironically, AIG was downgraded from AAA to AA the day he retired, even while Cassano was adding more subprime loans to his credit default swap portfolio.

And, losing the AAA rating, per a Cassano agreement, required it to start posting collateral on these CDSs. And that’s when trouble really started.

It’s a complicated story, but well worth a read.

Benedict mashes up Rand and Steinbeck?

In what, per the NY Times, sounds interesting at least, Pope Benedict XVI has released his third encyclical, this one on the world economy.

The encyclical, “Charity in Truth” in English, was reportedly delayed while the Vatican took stock of the severity of the current global recession, while still being finished in time for the upcoming G8 summit in Italy.

Oh, that Ayn Rand-John Steinbeck mashup?
“There are paragraphs that sound like Ayn Rand, next to paragraphs that sound like ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ That’s quite intentional,” Vincent J. Miller, a theologian at the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution in Ohio, said in a telephone interview.

“He’ll wax poetically about the virtuous capitalist, but then he’ll give you this very clear analysis of the ways in which global capital and the shareholder system cause managers to focus on short term good at the expense of the community, of workers, of the environment.”

Also, in what has already raised objections from conservative American Catholics like Michael Novak, Benedict says that due to the global nature of the crisis, more international regulations are needed, and places like the UN need to empower poorer countries more.

From the encyclical itself, Benedict has an answer to the Novaks of retrenchant conservative Catholicism, and any success theology Protestants who might be reading as well:
I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility.

That said, the call for changes appears reflected in the title. And, a quick scan of the encyclical shows a lot of Steinbeck and not much Rand.

To see if you agree, read the whole story, which then links to the encyclical.

Brooks logs in with no Palin defense

In fact, for her style points at least, David Brooks’ new column gives The Quitter with a Twitter™ a bit of comeuppance.
Here was a woman who aspires to a high public role but is unfamiliar with the traits of equipoise and constancy, which are the sources of authority and trust.

That’s followed by him giving Obama thumbs up for exemplifying some of those same graces.

Were you talking about And, that “on the other hand” last graf increases the “shush” value, although still applied with decorum.

Gonzo finally gets a job

But, contrary to the most fervent hopes of former Attorney General, and former White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales, he won’t be replacing Bud Selig as commish of baseball. He won’t even be getting a cush Austin or Houston job.

Nope, he’s headed further west, to the windy plains of Lubbock.

Obama tells Rahm to shut up on dissing public option

As I blogged a while ago, earlier today, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said the White House was okey-dokey with no public option in any healthcare reform.

(For more on Rahm’s statements see this blog post.)

Well, apparently, the progressive advocates that Obama is trying to get to shut up and stop bothering more conservative Democratic Senators have even bothered the Prez himself. From Russia (with no love?), Obama told Rahm, politely STFU.

And, Ezra Klein piles on.

But, we already have a voice of caution, and rightfully so.

Jane Hamsher says she doesn’t see much difference between Emanuel’s initial comments and Obama’s follow-up.

Let’s read Obama’s statement carefully:
“One of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest.

But, in a neolib world, a “trigger” idea like Emanuel first mentioned would theoretically do that.

So, good catch by Jane.

Oh, if you want to keep holding the feet of Rahm, and Sens. Nelson, Hagen, Feinstein, Landrieu, etc., to the fire, sign the petition.

Healthcare – look at France and Netherlands

The Boston Globe has a great article similar to a PBS “Frontline” episode about a year ago. Both show there are many ways to skin a national healthcare cat, with government involvement, but not in the top-down way of Great Britain or Canada.

Here’s Jonathan Cohn’s nut graf, from a month of investigating heathcare coverage in France and the Netherlands:
Not once did I encounter an interview subject who wanted to trade places with an American. And it was easy enough to see why. People in these countries were getting precisely what most Americans say they want: Timely, quality care. Physicians felt free to practice medicine the way they wanted; companies got to concentrate on their lines of business, rather than develop expertise in managing health benefits. But, in contrast with the US, everybody had insurance. The papers weren’t filled with stories of people going bankrupt or skipping medical care because they couldn’t afford to pay their bills. And they did all this while paying substantially less, overall, than we do.

And, other than a modest difference on cancer, these doctors actually treat many diseases and syndromes better than we do here.

That said, here’s nut graf two:
Of course, reforming health insurance in the US isn’t going to turn this country into France or the Netherlands overnight, any more than it would turn the US into Britain and Canada. The truth is that the changes now under consideration in Washington are relatively modest, by international standards.

But, significant chunks of the Obama Administration think anything that involves more direct government intervention in the healthcare sector is radical.

Best Southwest and Cedar Hill make Business Week

Specifically, Randy Haran, CEO of Texas Air Composites, gets cited, for his company’s use of open-books management.

What open-books management means is that, you train your employees in the basics of finance and accounting and — your books are open to them. Talk about business transparency. And, in today’s day and age, I’m sure it’s a method of boosting employee involvement.

So, read the full story to learn more and see if it might fit your business.

Atlantic and WaPost hypocrisy fest

As readers who follow national politics may already know, the Atlantic Monthly didn’t comment on the Washington Post’s “pay-to-play” salons because it’s been doing pretty much the same thing and, so far at least, is even less repentant than the Post.

Speaking of that, though, the Post says it will conduct an internal investigation of it’s own salon plans and how they got to be the way they did.

Given that Publisher Katherine Weymouth has refused to fall on the sword herself, and still isn’t:
Weymouth said she was on vacation last week and did not see the invitation that was sent out in her name

(As if the flier invitation is the only thing wrong about this)

And Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli really can’t be as ignorant of what happened as he claims, it’s clear that “internal investigation” means scapegoat searching.

Let’s let Post political reporter Dan Balz talk about that:
“I think everyone still has questions about how this collective breakdown occurred. This was not just two people in a room. There were a number of discussions about it. That part concerned me. Everyone knows the dinners were a bad idea.”

It appears new marketing exec Charles Pelton, already fingered for the fliers about the salons, would be scapegoating target No. 1.

That said, how different is this from newspapers spiking, toning down, delaying, or otherwise bollixing up stories for fear of offending major advertisers?

Not much. So, in that sense, this is nothing new.

Chorus growing for second stimulus

Adding to the continued drumbeat of folks like Paul Krugman, informal Obama advisor and former Clinton cabinet member Laura D’Andrea Tyson has added her insistence that the original plan was nice, but not enough. She said the February stimulus bill will have more effect in the second half of this year, but that the economy is “a sicker patient” than the Obama Administration first recognized.

She doesn’t note that it’s a sicker patient than Team Obama yet wants to admit, either.

It’s not a lost art for presidents to whistle in the economic dark as part of their moral bully pulpits. But, you have to act, behind that.

Also, Obama is trying to get both healthcare reform of some sort, and a climate “control” bill, through the Senate. He probably doesn’t want to do any more right now, not that he’s necessarily doing that much with either one of those.

Airlines still seeking for bottom

Domestic volume leader Southwest Airlines has lifted its carrying percentage, but only by further cutting flights. And, it has just launched a new sale.

Yet another Dallas Ponzi scheme busted

This one falls just short of $500 million and, like others, involves oil and gas issues.

Pretty soon, Big D is going to look back 20-25 years on the S&L crisis and call it a time of moral wholesomeness, if this keeps up.

Palin quits because Alaska is broke



Per the third webpage of an ABC story about the 10 states in the worst economic condition, Alaska is at No 6. In fact, the budget deficit is bad enough, and Alaska has become so dependent on one income source, that it’s possible the state might have to cut its socialistic “Permanent Fund.” Guess “Mama Bear” is pretty timid when it comes to facing the prospect of angry, greedy Alaskans wanting “their” money and not getting it. And, for all her bluster, she is probably clueless about Peak Oil, too.

Read the full story to see what other states might be giving California a bit of a run for the “No. 1” spot in a race nobody wants to win, as well as how the GOP is getting about as obstructionist in a few of these states as in the Leaden State.

Take Obama-hospitals deal with grain of salt

The WaPost, with Ms. Health Insurance, Ceci Connolly, writing away trumpets an offer by hospitals of $155 billion in savings over a decade as offering hope to the 47 million, and counting, uninsured Americans.

But, the devilish details say most of this won’t help national healthcare:
Most of the savings — about $100 billion — would come through lower-than-expected Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals, said the two industry sources. About $40 billion would be saved by slowly reducing what hospitals get to care for the uninsured, they added. The reductions would probably not begin for several years, after a significant number of people have enrolled in the new insurance programs.

So, only 25 percent of the savings — if they all materialize — will help the uninsured.

I’m not arguing Medicare and Medicaid don’t need the help. Just that this is NOT a big deal for national healthcare. And, it’s not the $200 bil that Team Obama first said that hospitals could save. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

Beyond that, more than anything else, as with Big PhRMA’s $80 bil offer a week or so ago, this looks like a chance to buy off the idea of public option.

Froomkin to Huff Post – will it work?

Glenn Greenwald rightly says it’s a good move overall, but given the Greek Goddess’ own inside-the-Beltway connections, and Huffington Post’s often bald-faced Obamiac cheerleading, there could be tensions.

Supposedly, Froomkin has full editorial freedom. But, didn’t he have that at the Washington Post, too?

So, I will not hold my breath too long over him and Arianna.

For example, what if the Huff Post starts cheating on “fair use” issues again?

Wall Street to Sacto – drop dead

Several big banks have said nyet to California state IOUs. Read the story for the details, and more on Cali’s latest on budget issus.

All the Leaden State needs now is for voters to pull a Gray Davis on Der Ahhnold.