SocraticGadfly: 7/12/09 - 7/19/09

July 18, 2009

Texas apologizes for Fort Worth gay bar raid; city hasn’t

Commissioner Alan Steen, head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, has officially apologized for his agency’s role in last month’s raid of Fort Worth’s Rainbow Lounge, done in conjunction with the Fort Worth Police Department.

Steen did not get specific about what TABC rules were violated in the Morning News. However, the sergeant who approved the raid on the TABC side has announced his retirement. Steen did say this:
“If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn't have even been there,” Steen said. “We have these conversations all the time, and we don’t participate in those kinds of inspections when there's not probable cause or reasonable suspicion or some public safety measure to be inspected.”

More on Steen’s words from his original interview with the Dallas Voice, where he said the raid never should have been approved, that agents should have been dressed in plainclothes for an action like this, and other things.

But, per the Morning News story, the Fort Worth PD and Chief Danny Halstead still don’t get it, and apparently are continuing to lie about what happened.

The Dallas Voice also has coverage of the most recent Fort Worth City Council meeting.

Obama hypocritically hearts gays at NAACP

Given the inaction on various gay rights issues so far, by his administration and by himself personally, I think it was a bit hypocritical for President Obama to tell the NAACP:
“Make no mistake, no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America,” (including) by “our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights.”

Lemme see, this would be the Obama who:
1. Has not lifted a finger to end “don’t ask, don’t tell”;
2. Has said not a word of condemnation of his Department of Justice’s brief defending the indefensible defense of marriage act, the one that equated gay relationships to incest, even;
3. Has yet to make a comment on the Rainbow Lounge incident of apparent gay harassment and attacks by police in Fort Worth.

Yep, that’s a pretty high level of hypocrisy.

Irony alert – Amazon makes ‘1984’ into non-book

Amazon has made Winston Smith electronically disappear by making a Kindle version of 1984 become a non-book.

Zelaya encourages Honduras insurrection

Honduras’ ousted (ex)-President Manuel Zelaya, in addition to threatening to return to the country if mediation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias doesn’t return to office by the end of the day today, is also saying revolution against an illegitimate government is legal.

Well, it always is, in the eyes of the revolutionaries. If they win, they write history. If they don’t…

But, by making the mediation talks about “winning” rather than compromise, Zelaya continues to show his hand.

Arias has already proposed a coalition government as well as amnesty on both sides as part of talks. It’s unclear what interim President Roberto Micheletti thinks about a coalition, but it’s clear what Zelaya thinks.

What a sham Zelaya’s participation in Arias’ mediation has been. No surprise, though. It’s clearer by the day that, ultimately, this continues to be about him more than political idealism.

Again, was this handled ideally? No. Has the military behaved at times in a coup-like manner afterward? Yes.

But, did Zelaya bring this on himself? Yes.

Is he continuing to show how and why he brought this on himself? Yes.

Wild horse bill – good intentions but bad results likely

Once again, too many Congresscritters have been reading “Brighty of the Grand Canyon” and then, as a result, writing what’s probably bad legislation.

Sure, a wild, Arab-mix white stallion looks noble.

But, a hammer-headed roan, from habitat confinement, overgrazing and inbreeding, doesn’t. And, the bill the House passed doesn’t force the Bureau of Land Management to come up with all the new land.

If passed, the bill would give the government authority to enter into cooperative agreements to create wild horse sanctuaries on nonfederal lands. Right. Fat chance of that.

That said, GOP grandstanding on the bill, saying Democrats were putting horses over unemployed people, is simply shameless.

Here’s the bottom line. Beyond it not requiring the BLM to set up more habitat, meaning all the problems listed above will continue, wolf predators are nonexistent across most the west, and mountain lions almost so. (Coyotes, for the unfamiliar, do nor normally hunt in packs; even on the rare occasions they do hunt in any cooperative manner, they’re still not going to take down horses.)

And, that’s that.

For GOP, it’s not about healthcare but Obama

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint has now explicitly said so:
“If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo,” DeMint said Friday during a conference call with conservative activists. “It will break him.”

And, that’s the bottom line why the GOP doesn’t offer its own plan.

It’s also a measure of how tawdry? (that’s not quite the right word)… how amateurish American politics is to, say, the British House of Commons.

Anyway, now that DeMint has made that clear, it’s good that the Democratic National Committee is joining folks like MoveOn and running ads against its own senators that don’t fall in line.

Honduras – Zelaya ignores US, threatens to return

Despite the US opposing a return to Honduras by ousted (ex)-President Manuel Zelaya, he has promised to do just that if mediation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias doesn’t return to office by the end of the day today.

What a sham his participation in Arias’ mediation has been. No surprise, though. It’s clearer by the day that, ultimately, this continues to be about him more than political idealism.

Arias has already proposed a coalition government as well as amnesty on both sides as part of talks. It’s unclear what interim President Roberto Micheletti thinks about a coalition, but it’s clear what Zelaya thinks.

Again, was this handled ideally? No. Has the military behaved at times in a coup-like manner afterward? Yes.

But, did Zelaya bring this on himself? Yes.

Is he continuing to show how and why he brought this on himself? Yes.

And, that’s why I’m skeptical left-liberal.

Cronkite dead – fittingly on Apollo 11 anniversary

Walter Cronkite, dead at 92. If you’re my age or even older, who can forget him with Apollo 11, or other Apollo launches?

Or given that his 1968 visit to Vietnam, and subsequent commentary, was a factor in LBJ not running for re-election, how fitting that he outlived Robert McNamara by a week?

And… that’s the way Uncle Walter was.

July 17, 2009

Rafsanjani speech, his tactics, Iran resistance

With Iranian police engaging in “preventative detention” arrests even before Grand Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani’s speech at noon prayers Friday in Tehran, future installations of trouble were guaranteed. But, given that papers like the LA Times got anonymous Iranians to contribute to their stories, in addition to what Rafsanjani actually said to challenge the government, guarantees that the resistance will continue.

At the same time, I’d like to hear more on any guess as to Rafsanjani’s angle. Sure, he’d like to replace Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Sure, that’s obvious enough that many backers of presidential challenger Mir Mousavi don’t trust him.

But, in particular, with his calls for mediation by the Assembly of Experts, on the tactical level, what game is he running right now?

Rafsanjani walks fine line but rebukes Iran govt

Grand Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani, without directly questioning the June Iran election results, nonetheless called those results a “crisis,” while also publicly criticizing the Guardian Council backstopping Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He then said he had discussed a possible solution with members of the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts; he heads both.

However, as I’ve blogged ever since the “official” election results were announced, Rafsanjani is an opportunist. And, as the LA Times notes, many Mousavi backers agree.

More detailed information when available.

Senate ‘Gang of Six’ wants healthcare delay

It appears a bipartisan “gang of six” senators didn’t get the American Medical Association memo (PDF) endorsing a national healthcare bill, judging by the letter the six sent (PDF) To Majority Leader Harry Read and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Now, Wyden, I can halfway accept his wanting more time; he has sponsored an alternative bill with some features better than the AMA-backed House bill, or most of what has come up in the Senate.

But, that’s called a conference committee deal, Ron, to get part of your ideas in the final legislation, at least.

The others? Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu continue to be squishes and need MoveOn ads again, I guess. Joementum? Connecticut Democratic Party needs to loudly beat the bushes for a 2012 opponent right now.

Snowe and Collins? Just.Another.Politician.™ needs to raise the threat of the budget reconciliation process being used to ram this through the Senate, period.

Otherwise, the Gang of Six missed my blog comments about the AMA endorsement.

To repeat, that endorsement has several points of fallout, with italic updates for this latest:

1. Blue Dogs in the House don’t have a very strong stool for triangulation now. That also goes for Gang of Six type Senators.

2. MoveOn and similar orgs can not only ramp up the advocacy ad pressure on wavering Democrats, but target more moderate Republicans as well. I’d think Republican Congressmen in suburban districts in not-too-conservative areas (think Pacific Rim and Great Lakes) are most vulnerable. And we now know which six Senators to target.

3. Given that smaller-business doctors are often members of local chambers of commerce, this could have a small spillover into the seriousness, or downgrading thereof, with which U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposition is considered and treated. That needs to be stressed by Reid to the four Dems; McConnell won’t raise that one.

4. This means that further negotiations could strengthen other aspects of the bill, as long as the AMA’s two concerns stay met. That’s you we’re talking about, Sen. Wyden.

Krauthammer can’t even get Apollo 11 right

Like Buzz Aldrin of that mission, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer waxes semi-eloquently about ramping up manned space flight.

But, the ideas he sees being rooted in Apollo 11 aren’t.

Environmentalism? “Silent Spring” came out seven years before Apollo 11. “Desert Solitaire” came out the year before. The picture of the pendulant Earth as pale blue orb hanging above the curvature of the moon was shot by Apollo 8 (which he does note) and could have come from an unmanned mission anyway.

Beyond that, as for “going for the wonder and the glory”?

Been there and done that, to put it bluntly. We already have the pale blue orb pic, etc. Going back to the moon would be… blasé.

And, as I blogged yesterday about Buzz Aldrin’s push to land men on Mars, fuhgeddabout it. Even glory has price tags.

As for benefits? NASA is ultimately a scientific outfit; it’s not about poetics. And, if it’s primarily about private-sector technology benefits, NASA has paved the way enough for folks like Richard Branson to do that.

At bottom line, Krauthammer’s column is about American exceptionalism, a semi-soft-power version of American imperialism, and perhaps in the background, a little American chauvinism, and even a bit of American manifest destiny in the background, perhaps.

Shopping green and sustainable – at WallyWorld?

First, per the story, if any company can start a national retailer trend in documenting the carbon footprint of manufacture, etc. it is indeed Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart plans to begin by asking its more than 100,000 suppliers around the world to answer 15 simple questions about the sustainable practices of their companies. Questions include “Have you set publicly available greenhouse gas reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?”

But, at the same time, even thought WallyWorld has invited other discount retailers to participate, I am sure there’s a financial angle somewhere.

Beyond that, will the sustainability focus on the carbon footprint of shipping all the made in China schlock here? If not, it is still a pretty hollow idea, regardless of any financial angle.

That said, I don’t know how all these American suppliers would deal with the double-whipsaw of WallyWorld pushing for low prices and carbon cleanliness at the same time.

Finally, if this is real — Wal-Mart, will you extend it to human rights and labor rights, too? And, with real certification inspections?

EFCA back in play – but somewhat neutered

New Sen. Al Franken has helped revive the Employee Free Choice Act — but, with one major proviso — card check is now out.

That’s to get the magic bullet of having a filibuster-proof bill.

Unions are taking this in some sort of stride:
“Our goals,” an anonymous AFL-CIO official said, “have always been letting employees have a real choice, having real penalties against employers who break the law in fighting unions, and having some form of binding arbitration to prevent employers from dragging their feet forever to prevent reaching a contract.”

And, big biz still isn’t, overall, too happy with the bill, so it can’t be all that bad.

Fake bipartisanship of Charles Grassley

Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal goes deep in the tank for Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley in a partisan attempt to establish his “bipartisanship” on healthcare issues.

First, he hasn’t been bipartisan on national healthcare from the start. By ruling out any single-payer plan’s acceptability from the get-go, he said he was going to be partisan about certain issues.

As for his Twittering skills, Strassel leaves out the hiliarious “hammer” Tweet. (Which, given his blanket opposition to single-payer, could be a self-hoisting petard anyway, as to who sees everything as a hammer.)

If Grassley really wants to be “bipartisan,” he can discuss the details of a government-payer system and details of how to structure funding. But, for those of us to the left of Obama, let alone Grassley, a single-payer option IS a cost reducer.

And, with the AMA on board for the House bill, the “bipartisanship goalposts” have now been moved, anyway.

Cornyn to vote for Sotomayor?

With a quote like this:
“Your judicial record strikes me as pretty much in the mainstream of judicial decision-making”

As a early-bird GOP senators start announcing their vote intentions, it’s going to be hard for him to come out and say no later on.

With AMA healthcare OK, who will endorse funding?

Right now, different groups of Democrats, divided along House-Senate, conservative-liberal, and other lines, remain at odds on how to fund any new healthcare legislation. Since the American Medical Association has now indicated it backs the idea, as expressed in the House bill, maybe it’s time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to, at the minimum, indicate what funding mechanisms it finds least objectionable.

Southwest plane hole might have been metal fatigue

That’s the preliminary possibility of the National Transportation Safety Board, about the cause of the fuselage hole in the Southwest Airlines Nashville-Baltimore flight July 12. The NTSB said the hole showed no sign of “significant corrosion or obvious pre-existing mechanical damage.”

All very preliminary, to be sure. But, Southwest has to be hoping this is NOT the case. If metal fatigue turns out to be the cause, that means even tighter Federal Aviation Administration scrutiny of Southwest’s plane inspections.

Beyond that, it exposes the flip side of Southwest’s taunted one-plane-fits-all-routes efficiency. If this is a problem with 737-300s, it’s a big problem for the airline.

Again, all very preliminary.

Clicks not clicking so much for Google

Google generated 13 percent less revenue per clicked ad in the second quarter than one year ago.

Beyond what that means for Google, it’s the latest sign that cyberadvertising is doing no better than hardcopy or broadcast.

July 16, 2009

GOP Pants Watch, emeritus division

Leisha Pickering, estranged wife of former Mississippi GOP Rep. Chris Pickering, claims, yes, he had an affair. Wait until fall; GOP pants will be falling like autumn leaves. And, Ms. Pickering, in this one, is suing Chris’s sweetie, something other GOP Pants Wives haven’t done.

Politico has much more on this situation.

For example, like Pants Watch brethren Sen. John Ensign and Gov. (and former Rep.) Mark Sanford, Pickering stayed in Washington at the C Street Christian fellowship halfway house.

Wanted: 30,000 skinheads and neo-Nazis

No questions asked, to join the U.S. Army, since it’s not screening them out right now.

AMA endorses House health bill – what this means

Well, well, well! One of the main stool legs of opposition to healthcare reform, including some version of single-payer, is now in favor (PDF)!

True, as Jonathan Cohn notes, in explaining why the AMA has signed off, this is not as powerful as your father’s American Medical Association, but still…

Several points here:

1. Blue Dogs also don’t have a very strong stool for triangulation now.

2. MoveOn and similar orgs can not only ramp up the advocacy ad pressure on wavering Democrats, but target more moderate Republicans as well. I’d think Republican Congressmen in suburban districts in not-too-conservative areas (think Pacific Rim and Great Lakes) are most vulnterable.

3. Given that smaller-business doctors are often members of local chambers of commerce, this could have a small spillover into the seriousness, or downgrading thereof, with which U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposition is considered and treated.

4. This means that further negotiations could strengthen other aspects of the bill, as long as the AMA’s two concerns stay met.

‘Traitor’ Maj. Cook has ‘Obama birther’ suit dismissed

So, sit down and STFU, Maj. Stefan Cook.

Oh, and next time you volunteer for active duty, be sincere about it. Is deliberately deceiving your superior officers a court-martial offense?

And, will the Georgia Bar Association get the gonads to slap his attorney, Orly Taitz, (pictured, with Cook) with a barratry citation?

NASA lost moon video original

Fortunately, Hollywood came to the rescue, and even made it look better than original.

It was called “Capricorn 21.”

C’mon, Buzz Aldrin, don’t punch me!

US not guaranteed swine flu vaccine

If a bad outbreak this winter hits a European country that houses swine flu vaccine makers, vaccines from private companies there may never get to the US, contract or no contract.

Assisted suicide and national health care

The article by renowned and provocative bioethicist Peter Singer on healthcare, rationing and quality of life got me to thinking about something else.

What about assisted suicide? It’s the ultimate and final decision of quality of life vs. quantity of life, per my original post on the subject talking about hospice and other late-life quality of life issues.

Would a government-payer system cover assisted suicide? Not today; we’ll never get that. Some day? Maybe.

Should it? Absolutely. If you don’t like assisted suicide, then don’t do it, whether it’s covered by insurance or not.

Clemens case heats up with Houston gym owner subpoena

Sounds like the feds still are pushing the subpoena case against suspected steroid user Roger Clemens, subpoenaing former Houston gym owner Kelly Blair himself suspected as a roid distributor.

Roubini says recession could end this year

Now, Nouriel Roubini was spot-on about many of the causes leading up to the current recession. At the same time, he’s a definite contrarian at times. So, I’ll take his prediction with a grain of unemployment salt.

Rafsanjani to lead Iran Friday prayers

Grand Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani, spiritual patron of Iranian presidential candidate Mir Mousavi will lead Friday prayers at Tehran University.

Add in the fact that Mousavi will attend.

Boy, you talk about a situation with potential for about anything to happen.

Meanwhile, just because you don’t hear about resistance to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn’t mean it isn’t happening:
Passive resistance includes trying to crash the electricity grid by turning on home appliances at appointed times and creating power surges, or stuffing newspapers into Islamic charity boxes reputed to contribute to the upkeep of ideological militias involved in suppressing the protests.

Meanwhile, as the Wall Street Journal notes and I have blogged before, who knows what “the cynical operator” Rafsanjani will even say? He’s not going to do anything overt or stupid, but a crowd looking to parse every subtle inflection could get ideas.

Bob Rubin = Bob McNamara of financial crash?

With the death of former Secretary of State Robert McNamara, and discussion over whether his Vietnam War mea culpas were deep enough or sincere enough, Harold Meyerson speculates about when we will have any similar mea culpas about the financial meltdown, and who will be, or could be, its McNamara.

His answer? Former Clinton Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs chair, and guru and mentor to many of Team Obama’s financial “whiz kids”: Robert Rubin. Click the link for more thought on why Rubin fits the “guilty” bill and whether his whiz kids will learn or not.

More doubt on Francis Collins as NIH chief

Francis Collins, President Obama’s nomination to head the National Institutes of Health, has already drawn skepticism NOT for being religious, but for being an evangelical Protestant of, if not conservative, no more than moderate stances on some metaphysical issues.

Now, he’s riffing Steve Gould and the non-conflicting magisteria idea to claim no conflict between science and religion. That said, he puts morals explicitly in the religious magisterium.

Now, throwing out the excesses of Pop Evolutionary Psychology, true ev psych and related fields like ethology have shed light on the evolutionary development not just of individual morals, but of a moral system, i.e., ethics.

Michael Gerson tries this explainer:
For Collins, modern science and Christianity are not competing answers to the same question; they are ways of thinking about two very different sets of questions, both of which should be taken seriously.

Not true in several ways. As noted above, they still today, as they have in the past, often think about the same questions. With strongly different answers. With scientific answers subject to empirical scientific research.

The “two magisteria” is just an updated, schmaltzy version of the “god of the gaps” idea.

Charity goes beyond charity to freebie giveaway?

I don’t begrudge ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” building people like handicapped Dallas police officer Carlton Marshall new homes.

BUT – the size? A 4,000 square foot home is, in my opinion, well beyond charity and in the neighborhood of giveaway. A 2,000-2,500 square foot model would be more than adequate, with the rest of the money going to a homeless shelter or something.

Now, the show warns people about higher tax bills and other problems associated with a home that size. Or monster-sized utility bills.

Nor the environmental wastefulness of building a home that size. And, a bling-like home won’t change what happened to Marshall nearly two years ago.

Teens dodge Net ads and Twitter

And, with good teen reasons that will likely carry into their adulthood.

Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 anniversary

The always-reticent first man on the moon has a few brief comments here on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11; liftoff from Earth was 40 years ago today.

Although I don’t consider myself fully a part of the baby boom, this was the first of three big, big events in early childhood that are still remembered today.

This was the first, when I was 5 years old.

Next, just after my ninth birthday, was the announcement of the Paris peace accords to “end,” or Vietnamize, the Vietnam War. (My oldest brother was a high school sophomore, so that’s part of why this was important.)

Then came Aug. 9, 1974 — President Nixon’s resignation.

Apollo 11 stood, theoretically, was a counterpoint to Vietnam, race riots and assassinations. But, it couldn’t hide that Nixon got us basically nothing better than we could have had four or five years earlier on Vietnam. Nor did his basking in the glow of Apollo success put his paranoiac mind at political rest.

And, as people like Buzz Aldrin push — very prematurely in terms of technology and safety issues — for a manned voyage to Mars, the triumph of Apollo 11 couldn’t erase questions of whether all that spending was worth it.

It wasn’t just a question about whether any technological advantage offset the costs.

It was whether, given Vietnam and other issues, whether alleged psychological advantage of victory over the USSR wasn’t a hollow shell, or the dregs of bitterness.

Apollo 11 – a photo essay

Whether you’re younger than me, and don’t remember it, or need a start on your 40th-anniversary nostalgia fix, the Boston Globe has a big photo essay to take care of you. (Warning on download time — LOTS of large-size photos.)

Obama plays wait game on healthcare – so should House

Politico notes how President Barack Obama continues to play a waiting game on national healthcare. Meanwhile, “Blue Dog” Democrats are antsy, because the House has already reported a bill out of committee, and they’re not wanting to go on record about the bill in its current form.

Doesn’t anybody in the White House, or Democratic leadership in either house of Congress, see a problem here?

First, of course, is Obama’s waiting game vs. leadership.

Second is the fact that the House “went first” on Waxman-Markey. Why is it rushing the process on its side on national healthcare?

I don’t necessarily agree with all the Blue Dog substance concerns, but on the timing and votes matters, they’re absolutely right.

That’s why Ceci Connolly’s Washington Post article earlier this week, comparing Obama to LBJ on Medicare/Medicaid, was so funny. Unless he’s doing all sorts of unreported arm-twisting, and in a style totally un-Kumbaya, that’s just not true.

Not so fast on Cali budget deal

Even though Democrats in the California Legislature have totally caved to anti-tax Republicans, a California state budget deal remains elusive.

Why? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican legislators refuse to offer compromises on things like educational spending on their end.

California Democrats, in my opinion, need to get some things in writing.

Half-century of one-party rule about to end in Japan?

Yes, Japan is a democracy, but it’s been almost entirely under the control of the conservative Liberal Democrats since its post-World War II restart and new constitution. Well, six weeks from now, that could finally end with a win by the centrist Democrats Aug. 30.

I think it would be good for Japan. The LDP in opposition would be forced to take a serious look at itself. And, hopefully, become a better party. In a parliamentary system, unlike the U.S. “division and snarls” government, a parliamentary opposition has to do that.

Forty years after Apollo – No to Mars

Doorknob bless Buzz Aldrin, his overcoming his post-Apollo 11 depression and drinking issues, his efforts for space issues and more, but, perhaps even more now than when this argument was used against his own flight in the 1960s, we have too much to do here on Earth to even consider manned flight to Mars. Beyond that, we’re not close to working out psychological issues of that length of isolation, nor do we have any idea yet what sort of cosmic-ray damage astronauts would suffer.

That’s all true just for a manned trip; it applies in spades to his idea for a colony, which would surely cost at least $1 trillion to set up. (Buzz dodges price issues as well as technical difficulties.)

Ignorance = need for lawlessness, says Yoo

Yep, that’s John Yoo’s latest argument — since we didn’t know what al Qaeda would do after 9/11 we had to break the law to find out!

Well, for starters, since we DID have some idea before 9/11 about a possibility like it happening, and found that out within the law…

States want prison cellphone jam; wise idea?

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is co-author of a bill to allow states to jam cellphones inside prisons; since they are actually two-way radios, cellphones are wholly under the regulation of the Federal Communications Commission and jamming them is illegal.

On the surface, it sounds like a bright idea.

But the wireless industry trade group CTIA-The Wireless Association, says that experiences in other countries show that private lines in the vicinity also get jammed. It wants states to use better detection technology and toughen criminal penalties.

Many asteroids actually comets

British astronomers have given a kick in the shins to the proto-planet theory of origin of the asteroid belt.

Southwest may dodge FAA doghouse

It looks like that fuselage hole in a Southwest plane earlier this week is not covered by the Federal Aviation Administration regulation whose violation got Southwest a $7.5 million fine.

On the other hand, the National Transportation Safety Board, investigating the incident, says it DOES fall under that FAA reg.

CIA hit squads were ready to go operational

It turns out this is why CIA Director Leon Panetta spilled the beans to Congress about the CIA assassination teams whose existence former Vice President Dick Cheney had insisted be hidden from Congress for eight years.

OK, this leads to new questions.

WHY was it suddenly brought near to operability?

And, given that Team Obama was just taking charge, WHO, deeper in the bowels of Langley, made that call?

Third, HOW did Panetta find out that this was going operational?

Honduras – Micheletti says would step down

In the latest negotiation concession from one side related to Honduras political mediation, Honduran interim President Robert Micheletti told the Organization of American States he’s willing to step down, on condition that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya not be restored.

True, the next in line would be Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera; the Supreme Court swore out the military to arrest Zelaya. But, so far, we heaer nothing but absolutism from Zelaya.

Tricky Ricky Perry loses big-dollar donors

A number of the Texas gov’s former deep-pockets supporters haven’t just abandoned him, they’ve switched to Kay Bailey Hutchison.

And, it’s making for some intra-family wars, with splits between big family names like Mosbachers and Basses.

I figured Tricky Ricky’s taunts earlier this week about wondering if Kay would even run fell into the “methinks he doth protest too much” category.

Oh, and I think Kay’s onto something when she said that Tricky Ricky was violating at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the election code on ixnay on collecting funds while the Lege was in session. There’s no way he raised his money that fast.

July 15, 2009

Peter Singer talks truth on healthcare rationing

The renowned and provocative bioethicist starts by noting the obvious (well, obvious to anybody except a conservative who refuses to admit it): America’s private healthcare system right now rations healthcare. And, has for years. PPOs, HMOs, advance check-in before non-emergency medical visits and much more — they’re all forms of, and tools for, rationing healthcare.
The U.S. system also results in people going without life-saving treatment — it just does so less visibly. Pharmaceutical manufacturers often charge much more for drugs in the United States than they charge for the same drugs in Britain, where they know that a higher price would put the drug outside the cost-effectiveness limits set by NICE. … That’s rationing too, by ability to pay.

And, let’s not forget that doughnut hole Republicans deliberately put in the middle of Medicare Part D, speaking of rationing.

Singer goes on:
When the media feature (named British patients) like Bruce Hardy or Jack Rosser, we readily relate to individuals who are harmed by a government agency’s decision to limit the cost of health care. But we tend not to hear about — and thus don’t identify with — the particular individuals who die in emergency rooms because they have no health insurance. This “identifiable victim” effect, well documented by psychologists, creates a dangerous bias in our thinking.

Exactly, and at least some conservatives know that. Besides the Hardy and Rosser types tend to be middle-class; those with nothing but ER care tend to be poor and therefore not so deserving of being pictured anyway. However, their quality of life at end of life is never discussed; just their quantity of life. More on this below.

Here’s the bottom line, near the end of what passes for a tome by today's normal newspaper website writing length:
Of course, it’s one thing to accept that there’s a limit to how much we should spend to save a human life, and another to set that limit.

Singer goes on to note how behavioral psychology has shined a light on how bad we are at making such risk assessments, too. That’s totally true. That’s how advertising works, and that’s how political grandstanding works.

Singer, unsurprisingly if you’ve read him before, ends by diving into quality-of-life issues, something that no politician will touch with a 10-foot pole. This is where Democratic politicians will say, “Whoa, now; wait a minute.”

Singer doesn’t delve into everything, of course; he doesn’t have room.

But, end-of-life expenses, here in America, especially is where quality-of-life runs head-on into quantity-of-life stubbornness.

Long since Jessica Mitford and other writers on the subject, America remains a deeply death-defying nation. While hospice is gaining ground, the allegedly most Christian United States is very much a nation of death-fearers.

And, it’s DEATH-fearing, not DYING-fearing, that’s the problem. Hospice, on both the physical and psychological side, well addresses the dying fears. But, the death fears are still there.

Beyond financial and quality-of-life rationing, Americans need to do some thinking about quantity-of-life issues (I have more in another post.)

Singer’s story is long, at five webpages, and well worth a read; unfortunately, it will probably cross the eyeballs of nary a GOP member of Congress. And, the Democratic side of the aisle (or any Green types, if they were there, perhaps) would dodge wrestling with this in depth.

China enviro-bull claim on carbon tariffs

China claims the idea of carbon tariffs on individual products is protectionism in disguise.

It also claims the Kyoto treaty bans them from being imposed on developing nations.

True enough, but, we’re not in Kyoto anymore, President Hu Jintao and Chinese communists, we’re on the way to Copenhagen.

So, after several weeks of promising news about China on environmental issues, it’s now back to being worse than the U.S.

Definitely no recession for State Farm in Tejas

If Dallas-area homeowners thought Allstate was hiking their rates, they haven’t seen anything yet.

State Farm must be trying to buy a farm or two with a 14 percent rate hike, once again leaving Texas residents at the mercy of the near-toothless state Department of Insurance.

‘Traitor’ reservist major dodges A-stan – shyster angle

There’s much more coming out on the case of U.S. Army Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook and his “Obama is not an American” refusal to deploy to Afghanistan when first called up.

Representing him in his quasi-treasonous stance is birth-certificate chasing lawyer Orly Taitz, who has done this before.

Military blog Mudville Gazette has more, including an earlier class-action suit by Taitz that included Cook.

And, it appeared Cook volunteered for call-up to be a claim-tester.

Lt. Col. Maria Quon, U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer, said a reservist who volunteers for active duty can request recension of orders up to the day of deployment.

So, he’s not just a traitor, he’s one of those conservative lawyer-haters, except when it’s their own lawyer who’s doing the goring.

I think his two weeks of active training ought to be sending him down to McMurdo in Antarctic winter or something.

Duncanville biker clueless on bike safety bill Perry vetoed

So were others in the minority of cyclists supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his veto of SB 422.

Iraq’s oil future

Peak Oil expert Michael Klare takes an in-depth look at the oil future of an independent Iraq. He’s presently surprised at Iraq’s oil output boost and cautiously optimistic for its future, while noting this give the world a Peak Oil-related lease of a few more years – if the world will only use it.

On that line, Klare cites Peak Oil realism as a major reason BushCo, already last year, was at least halfway OK with the Chinese getting their hands on some Iraq oil contracts.

That said, the story is in-depth and worth a read.

Irony alert – swine flu threatens Muslim hajj

Even though devout Muslims aren’t supposed to let pork cross their lips, Saudi Arabian officials are discussing issuing swine flu vaccines, as well as warning pregnant women, the elderly and the sick not to visit Mecca during this year’s pilgrimage in November.

Good news in SoCal? Home sales surge

Now, Southern California in particular, or the nation in general, don’t need a reinflation of the housing bubble that started in the Southland and got us onto the road of recession. But, a 7 percent price increase, and a 30 percent sales increase, are good news indeed.

Could Murdoch hack US lawmaker info too?

Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers have paid more than £1 million in fines for a variety of illegal hacking operations into the private data of British public officials, including cell phone accounts, tax records, bank statements and more.

And, considering that a former Conservative Party PR chief, who moved to Murdoch’s British news empire, was behind much of this, you have to think twice before saying it couldn’t happen here.

Picture if the often thrown-off WSJ op-ed page did something similar.

Leaden State near budget deal? Taxes involved?

California, who’s financial rating is down at the same level as when Gray Davis was voted out of office by recall five years ago, is reportedly near a budget deal. That said, the story has few details, though it sounds like smoke and mirrors is part of the process.

Big question? Did California Senate and Assembly GOP budge on taxes? How much? Is that why the Lege has a collective no-comment?

A&M prof – global warming droughts for Texas

From a release by the Texas Extension Service:

During the next few decades this year’s summer of 100-plus temperatures and parched soils may represent the norm, not the exception, for much of Texas, said a climatology expert.

However, this winter could be wetter, thanks to an El Niño currently building in the Pacific, but the long-term trend suggests more hot and dry summers, said Dr. Gerald North, professor of atmospheric sciences and oceanography at Texas A&M University.

El Niño generally produces wet winters for the south, from Florida to Texas, he said.

“One thing for sure. All the (climate) models say things are going to get warmer in the U.S. and the rest of the world,” he said. “But it’s a gradual process; a kind of stagger-step trend upwards. It may warm for a few decades, then slows down, then warms again for a few decades.”

North bases his predictions on a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, an organization composed of thousands of scientists from more than 100 countries, he said.

“In the report are all sorts of results from climate (computer) model runs,” North said. “What I’ve done is try to summarize what these runs mean for this region. ... What they suggest is that the tropical climates will expand northward. This seems to have been happening in the past and will continue to happen in the future.”

What is a tropical climate? Think of Central Texas during a typical summer, North said. The last storm front comes through roughly in the middle of June, and brings with it nice rains.

“During those months of the summer, all we have are these blue skies and little puffy clouds, occasional little rains in the afternoon. That’s tropical climate.”

“As global warming proceeds — this is the theory, it’s what the models say — the storm belt moves northwards,” he said. “And that particularly affects us here in the summertime, when we get no fronts.”

North said it is possible that the current drought is not indicative of a permanent trend, but is an anomaly, as were the droughts of the 30s and 50s.

“It could be just a fluke that persists for a decade,” he said. “But my guess is that it’s here to stay, but with fluctuations up and down.”

More information on drought in Texas can be found at the Web site of the Drought Joint Information Center here.

Free Leonard Peltier!

His next parole hearing is July 28; click this link for more information. Even 30 years too late is better than never.

Hypocrisy alert – Tony Blair

Ahh, Tony Blair. The man, the former British prime minister who never would bring full Eurozone membership to a vote of Parliament, is now shamelessly, if smoothly, angling to become the first real-powers president of the EU.

That said, he has declared opposition, including Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Carter ‘malaise’ speech 30 years later

Of course, the speech nowhere had the word “malaise,” and, equally of course, it was already true back then. Former Carter assistant speechwriter Gordon Stewart tells how it came to be.

The kabuki of Sotomayor hearings

Senators adopt postures behind their No masks, Sotomayor, like any other SCOTUS nominee, adjusts her mask in turn, and the play’s the thing, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” and informing nobody.

But, we don’t have to put up with this crap, legally; China has never signed relevant WTO side protocols on government procurement, contra a promise way back in 2001.

However, we do have to, in a sense, since our debt is hostage to China. Europe, on the other hand, has more room to play; will we see a call for sanctions against China?

Dallas cries a busted levee for departing manager

Dallas Assistant City Manager Ramon Miguez, the person who oversaw the city's understrength levee system is resigning ASAP.

The Dallas Morning News notes Miguez has been an assistant city manager since 1995, and overseen such big-ticket items as the construction of the Meyerson Symphony Center, the renovation of the Cotton Bowl and the planned modernization of Love Field.

So, the fail-possible levees, and their possibly inadequate sitting for pillars for the Calatrava bridges, can’t be all his fault.

That said, he’s going to HDR, about the biggest private engineering consulting firm for area city governments. Sounds like it’s just bailing out on the Dallas budget crunch. And, the difficulty in finding money to boost the levees to the latest Corps of Engineers standards.

That said, with him gone, he could be a convenient ex post facto dumping ground.

Specific fault of neoliberalism – cap-and-trade

Michael Lind makes a convincing argument for Barack Obama to be more Rooseveltian, especially on climate-control action, calling for a Manhattan Project type approach.

Make legislative sausage bit by bit

Citing myth vs. reality in omnibus bills of the past, like the Compromise of 1850, Michael Lind makes an argument against omnibus legislation on things like climate change or national healthcare.
Bismarck said that people should not want to know what goes into the making of laws or sausages. Better a plate of Vienna sausages than one monstrous wiener.

Good point.

Congress wants FAA to look anew at Southwest

The football-sized hole in the fuselage of a Southwest Airlines flight July 14, opening up in flight, is going to probably become more of a problem for Southwest.

This incident follows on a $7.5 million fine from the Federal Aviation Adminstration in March, for failing to inspect fuselage cracks.

And, because of that, and perhaps because of Southwest’s attempts to shrug this new incident off, Congress is leaning on the FAA to have a new look-see at Southwest.

And, independent safety experts are concerned, too.
“It does seems like fatigue to me, based on what I’ve learned,” said Fred Mirgle, chairman of the aviation maintenance science area of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University . “I don’t think Southwest is an unsafe airline, but they’ve had some issues. I hope the FAA gets to the bottom of what caused this.”

Embry-Riddle is one of the top half-dozen or so aeronautics schools in the country, so this is a real expert talking.

Wonder how Southwest’s stock is doing today? Probably not so good.

I’m not going to say the current top management team at Southwest, with Herb Kelleher now fully retired, is bad, or that it was bad even when Herb started stepping away, one position at a time.

But, nobody there has his pizzazz now. And, pizzazz can sometimes cover a world of sins.

Or, if used more positively, it can be creative enough to think up a good, and razzle-dazzle, response to a discovered world of sins. And, ever since Southwest’s problems with the FAA first came out, the company’s been a bit behind the PR curve.

Now, it may be a whole turn behind the curve.

Obama talks realism on auto industry

And, in Michigan, no less. And, he’s right — the jobs are gone. With the skill level needed to build today’s cars, if the American auto industry bounces back, American companies may not hire back old workers, and they certainly won’t hire illegals. Look for more robotics, with the possibility of Michigan creating some jobs in that area if its smart.

That said, Obama’s community college iniative, touted again might create some robotic maintenance-skilled people. It won’t create any new robotic engineers.

July 14, 2009

Convert delinquent mortgages to rentals?

That’s the latest housing prop-up fix coming from the Obama Administration. Not totally bad; could be better if at least a partial rent-to-own conversion option were made part of it. Not to let delinquent buyers 100 percent off the hook, of course, but, a “carrot” of some sort, in part to keep them interested in not trashing out what could still become their house some day.

Euro-Russian astronauts did NOT simulate Mars trip

The six European and Russian volunteers who spent about 100 days in an isolation capsule claiming to simulate a trip to Mars did no such thing.

The journey is six months one way. Then, it’s either stay there for just a few days, or else about a year, unless you want a less safe, and longer than six months, return trip.

The New York Time, which has much more, also talks about the six as having simulated a trip to Mars, although it does provide the qualifying information, later in the story, about an actual trip to Mars which says the six simulated nothing, though future plans call for a 500-day confinement.

Honduras negotiations somewhat one-sided; US urges patience

So far, the offer by interim President Roberto Micheletti to give ousted President Manuel Zelaya an amnestyis about the only compromise I’ve seen from either side. Zelaya continues to insist that real negotiations can only happen after he’s restored to power.

Well, he appears to want to continue to make it about “him” than about “reform,” it seems. And, for some liberals and left-liberals blindly supporting him, other dictators have come to dictatorial power by starting with a populist appeal from the left. Juan Peron comes to mind in Latin America. Mussolini started as a socialist.

Speaking of that, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the talks were “dead before they started.” Looks like Zelaya’s wagon remains tied to the same hitching post.

Unemploy Rick Perry – here’s how

If you’re disgusted and angry, as an actual or potential unemployed Texan — Republican, Democrat or unaffiliated — with Gov. Rick Perry’s letting the state’s unemployment benefits system get so ridiculously far out of whack the state is having to borrow $650 million from the federal government after Perry petulantly declined $550 million in unemployment-related federal stimulus funding this spring — you know Perry needs to be unemployed next year.

If you’re a Democrat, beat the November 2010 rush and do it in the spring. Tom Schieffer’s a nominal Democrat anyway, but with bucks enough to probably scare off others. If he does get the nomination, he’s better than Tricky Ricky, anyway.

But, if we get Kay Bailey Cheerleader the GOP nomination, then there’s no worry about Tricky Ricky.

Put up campaign signs for your favorite Democratic gubernatorial candidate, but register Republican and vote Kay.

Greens and die-hard Naderites, ditto. This isn’t a presidential year, so you don’t have to sit out the primary season to sign a ballot access petition.

Arizona – more broke than California

It’s 30 percent budget deficit (as a percentage of total budget) is worse than California and, like the Leaden State, citizen initiatives mandate how much of the state’s money is supposed to be spent.

Rick Perry has TX unemployed on hook after stimulus rejection

And, I’m unemployed myself right now. Texas’ fucktard governor, Rick Perry, who didn’t want federal stimulus money earlier this year because it would require changes in the state’s unemployment benefits system, now has a huge clusterfuck on his hands and – and on the wallets of unemployed Texans, notably those who ran out of benefits this week and were expected extensions.

Result? Gov. Helmethair will have to borrow more than $600 million from the U.S. Department of Labor.

And, he claims, “no big deal.”
Perry told reporters today that the borrowing is routine. The state borrowed from the federal government in 2003 during the last economic downturn, he said.

Perry said accepting the $556 million (in stimulus money) would have required looser eligibility rules, burdening employers for many years to come.

Hey, how’s that Texas economic miracle, you idiot?

And, this does not include any addition to the worry factor for people affected. So what if payments will be backdated when the federal loan money arrives? What if people need money now?

House sickness may not be allergies

Instead, if you’ve just moved into a house, and your whole family has a variety of health problems now, well, you may have bought an old meth house. In most states, your legal options are slim, and even if you do have any, your seller, also a “seller,” may already be in the pen and broke.

Irony alert – KKKer arrested in Israel

The truly guilty will even flee where nobody would think of them going, to riff on Proverbs?

Healthcare for dummies from Salon

Salon magazine has a great and simple roundup of the major terms in the healthcare debate.

British swine flu worries rise

As the British swine flu death toll has hit 17, some medical experts wonder if this strain has more drug resistance than types in the past, and if the government in Britain is yet up to speed.

More plane problems for Southwest

A football-sized hole in the fuselage, in the passenger cabin, of one of Southwest Airlines’ planes, opening up in flight, would indeed be a problem. That’s even more true with this incident following on a $7.5 million fine from the Federal Aviation Adminstration in March, for failing to inspect fuselage cracks.

And, Southwest’s attempts to shrug this off
aren’t carrying water in Congress, which is already leaning on the Federal Aviation Administration.

Conserrvative treason: Soldier won’t deploy, sez Obama not US citizen

And, this isn’t some redneck private, it’s an officer with a sworn oath. U.S. Army Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook says he should not have to go to Afghanistan because President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

Is it “treason,” beyond a figurative sense, or just “desertion”? Well, it’s an overt act, and, supporting a rumor that arguably could give aid and comfort to the enemy.

I have the perfect solution. Let Dick Cheney assassinate him!

There’s more:
Cook further states he “would be acting in violation of international law by engaging in military actions outside the United States under this President’s command. ... simultaneously subjecting himself to possible prosecution as a war criminal by the faithful execution of these duties.”

It sounds like Cook, a called-up reservist, just doesn’t want to deploy.

Tough shit.

Is there a reservist unit in The Fighting 101st Keyboarders?

Definitely no right side here

That’s the case of the Chinese government and its industrial espionage laws against China-based managers for global mining polluter and exploiter Rio Tinto. Yes, Chinese laws can be manipulated by the government to either force the private companies to give up proprietary knowledge themselves, or to be used as a shakedown, but, on the other hand, this IS Rio Tinto. So, in this tragicomedy, I’m sure we have plenty of errors.

Ensign to run for re-election

Yep, neither affair, nor affair payoff, nor hypocrisy to Pentecostal beliefs shall keep Sen. Ensign from his appointed Senate re-election run; five bucks says that, since he’s not up until 2012, the Religious Right and everybody else out there votes for him, and doesn’t even give him a primary challenge.

Obama juco plan not that much and wrong answer

That $12 billion? It’s over a full decade.

For the same price, you could give states the money to expand K-12 education to a 200-day school year. And, comparing us to every other technologically advanced nation, THAT is the right answer.

Obama threatens special session on healthcare

Just about nothing will get a Member of Congress’ attention more than threatening to make him or her work over vacation time; I’m not even sure when a serious special session of Congress was last called. At the same time, President Obama brushed aside questions about whether he needs to be more involved on the legislative end.

Liz Cheney now doesn’t want to talk about daddy Dick

Specifically, she doesn’t want to talk about Uncle Fester Che Ney’s being the Mafia hitman mastermind of a CIA assassination program.
"This is a classified program and he doesn't talk about classified programs.”

Uhh, Ms. GOP Junior Lawbreaker, it’s the law for him to talk to at least the “Gang of Eight” about even such programs. Nice try, biatch.

Chinese environmentalism boosted by protectionism

Or, how the US is doubly screwed, by itself, by the WTO, as Chin refuses to let U.S. and European companies work on solar or wind power products.

But, we don’t have to put up with this crap, legally; China has never signed relevant WTO side protocols on government procurement, contra a promise way back in 2001.

However, we do have to, in a sense, since our debt is hostage to China. Europe, on the other hand, has more room to play; will we see a call for sanctions against China?

Big Finance = Big Tobacco?

As the finance industry resists even the modicum of new regulation proposed by the Obama Administrastion, Bob Herbert draws some interesting parallels. “Malefactors of great wealth,” indeed.

Europe, Turkey to build new gas pipeline

It looks like the past actions of Vladimir Putin, combined with the new muscle-flexing of Dmitry Medvedev, have simply become too much for a Europe not wanting either one of them controlling the natural gas spigot next winter.

Tricky Ricky’s border cams a flop

Tricky Ricky Perry’s thousands of Texas volunteer cyberdeputies have caught a grand total of 11 illegals at the border — at a cost of $2 million. First given that the system is now broke, and given that amateur Deputy Dawgs were mistaking animals for people, amongst various idiocies, and that the cameras are run by a private company that failed to sell ads on the website, as yet another Gov. Helmethair example of nutbar privatization…

Given all that, the Dallas Morning News is right — shut the cams down.

I didn’t even list half the clusterfuck in the El Paso Times story.

Dumber than salons – WaPost gives Palin op-ed space

Well, the Quitter with a Twitter™, who just walked away from managing a state of less than 1 million people, suddenly thinks she has all the answers for 300 million, specifically on global warming denial and energy policy. Meanwhile, is the Post in general, and now Editorial Editor Fred Hiatt in particular, in a search for new depths to plumb?

July 13, 2009

Prince Albert reflects on Stan the Man

And, it’s about time Stan Musial got a full measure of attention even if via Albert Pujols, in part. The All-Star Game should be great.

Challenge Congressional Democrats from the left?

Jon Chait gets this half right. Congressional Democrats will probably lie more than Congressional Republicans to get re-elected, so primary challenges would be of limited value. Besides, few Democrats would do that. Instead, we need more progressives to support left-liberal third-party general election challenges.

Help a 'starving' unemployed journalist

I'm still interested in staying in the newspaper world, if I can find the right job. (And I will relocate to most parts of the country. Or, I'll take something more "new media." Besides my own blog, I blogged regularly at my newspaper's blog, I know all the basics of Photoshop and digital photography, and have used video on at least the point-and-shoot level of digital cameras.

That said, here's the top part of a generic "communications" mini-resume. Spelled-out version of my resume is at bottom:


OBJECTIVE: A communications position using my skills and experience in writing, editing, desktop publishing, management, public speaking, and analytical and synthetic thinking.

BACKGROUND: More than 10 years award-winning editing and writing; also marketing, public speaking, page layout/design, photography/editing, research. Strong analytical abilities.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATIONS: Editorial writing helped pass city and school district bonds, 2004-05, defeated other school bond, Lancaster. PUBLIC SPEAKING: Trained in public speaking and speech writing; have spoken on behalf of newspaper employers to various organizations. CREATIVITY: Have written opinion columns in haiku and other poetic formats; have created editorial cartoons in Photoshop. NEWS: Pollution investigative journalism led to company CEO being terminated; other investigative work connected to Centers for Disease Control tracking a medical syndrome to a Golden Corral restaurant, already closed after reporting on sub-par health inspections. Uncovered newly-constructed high school with non-lockable classrooms and cosmetology classroom in violation of state standards. MANAGEMENT: Partial oversight of four news editors and other staff as assistant managing editor, Today Newspapers; managed staff writer(s), Navasota, Lancaster; managed freelancers, Navasota, Jacksboro.

North and East Texas Press Association — Journalist of the Year, weekly division, 2005.
Texas Press Association Better Newspaper Contests — First place, sweepstakes: 2002, 2005; first, general excellence, 2004, 2009; first, page design, 2002, 2003; first, news writing, 2002; first, editorials, 2005;

E-mail: socraticgadfly AT hotmail DOT com

Assassination why Cheney hid CIA secret program?

The Guardian claims that one big of the top secret CIA program former Vice President Dick Cheney kept hidden from Congress was not new, controversial means of gathering intelligence, but was assassinating al-Qaeda operatives in friendly countries.
The CIA apparently did not put the plan in to operation but the US military did, carrying out several assassinations including one in Kenya that proved to be a severe embarrassment and helped lead to the quashing of the programme.

But, as several commenters note, it has to be more than that, as far as what Cheney wanted hidden. Although, the cooperation with Mossad – if the U.S. ever had a hit on, say, Saudi soil with Mossad cooperation, THAT would be hugely controversial.

Oh, and whether it’s that bad or not, the assassination program has raised a ruckus on the Hill.

And now, Liz Cheney now doesn’t want to talk about her hitman Daddy.

Specifically, she doesn’t want to talk about Uncle Fester Che Ney’s being the Mafia hitman mastermind of a CIA assassination program.
"This is a classified program and he doesn't talk about classified programs.”

Uhh, Ms. GOP Junior Lawbreaker, it’s the law for him to talk to at least the “Gang of Eight” about even such programs. Nice try, biatch.

Governing while drunk

That’s what all those 18-hour days, seven days a week, add up to for White House staff.

Seriously. A British medical study of Members of Parliament showed workaholic political grinding caused mental impairment equivalent to being legally drunk at 0.10 blood alcohol.

Palin – million-dollar Twitterbaby

That $1 million is about how much Palin PAC raised in the second quarter of this year plus a late rush after her resignation speech.

She, or somebody behind her, might be dumb like a fox on some of this stuff.

Two strikes and you’re out for Liz Cheney

First, she raises the nutbar “Obama is selling out America” line. Then, she says anybody who wants to investigate her dad’s role in torture hates America, adding in the same article that she is open to a run for elective office in the future.

Oh, doorknob.

Make that three strikes, now.

Liz Cheney now doesn’t want to talk about her hitman Daddy.

Specifically, she doesn’t want to talk about Uncle Fester Che Ney’s being the Mafia hitman mastermind of a CIA assassination program.
"This is a classified program and he doesn't talk about classified programs.”

Uhh, Ms. GOP Junior Lawbreaker, it’s the law for him to talk to at least the “Gang of Eight” about even such programs. Nice try, biatch.

America the slow-boiling frog

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman warns America is in slow-boiling frog status on lack of awareness, or refusal to face, global warming, as well as the current economic situation.

Google Chrome OS a Microslob warning shot?

Some interesting thoughts on that very subject, and why the two companies warily circle each other rather than going for the kill.

Developing nations’ latest on climate control

Small island nations warn that the latest climate cut ideas, discussed before the G8 meeting, not enough to help them.

Meanwhile, Brazil continues to insist rich countries can do more with climate-saving technology transfers.

NYT Sotomayor editorial chock full of legal idiots

Dear Gail Collins: Who within the New York Times op-ed staff had the dim-bulb idea of including Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales in a mock questionnaire for Sonia Sotomayor?

Rather than this being a sign of Holder’s independence, you have to wonder if this was discussed in detail with the Obama White House.

A year or more after me, other enviros wake up

I saw through Barack Obama more than a year ago, and therefore voted Green for president, as I did in 2004. Well, at least some environmentalists, though presumably none of them from Gang Green groups, are finally waking up.

But, as the story indicates, these folks are still largely, unlike me, confining their thought within the left-hand side of the two-party duopoly.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman warns America is in slow-boiling frog status on lack of awareness, or refusal to face, global warming.

Dallas Morning News half-right on HOV lanes

I like the idea of “driver self-enforcement” of HOV lanes not just new ones, but all of them.

And, per the Snooze noting that eventually, the north side ones will let single driver use them for a fee, what about south of the Trinity, like the 67 HOV lanes?

But, beyond that…

Most cities that aren’t the size of New York City or Southern California’s sprawling Southland only restrict HOV lanes to multiple passengers during rush hours. (Phoenix, for example, opens the lanes to general traffic at other times.)

So, outside rush hour, let’s get away from tolling them, at least for now. Open them up to general use at non-peak times.

GOP govs tried a Palin ‘intervention’?

Hmm, I’ll bet that’s behind her talk about campaigning for conservative Democrats next year.

The New York Times story jumps right in, in medias res:
In late March, a senior official from the Republican Governors Association headed for Alaska on a secret mission. Sarah Palin was beset by such political and personal turmoil that some powerful supporters determined an intervention was needed to pull her governorship, and her national future, back from the brink.

It gets better there, as the “all about me” Quitter with a Twitter then says the seeds of her resignation were sown the day McCain tapped her as his Veep candidate.

Hope for the intervention’s success soon faded. Despite advice to stick close to home and focus on an Alaska agenda, the governor accepted an invitation to attend an anti-abortion dinner in Indiana in April, even though the state budget was hanging in the balance in the Legislature.

When Tom Wright, chief of staff for the speaker of the Alaska House, suggested that the governor would catch heat for leaving, Palin stormed into his office and, according to a person familiar with the conversation, “proceeded to ream him out.”

The whole story is on those lines.

Meanwhile, the LA Times weighs in on how many Republicans don’t want her campaign support.

July 12, 2009

Holder ‘torture probe’ a sham and head fake?

The Washington Post mentions the details of what would — and would not — get investigated if Attorney General Eric Holder names a special prosecutor to investigate torture allegations against BushCo members — something Newsweek, in what looks more like a fluff piece, omitted.

(Hat tip to Greenwald, among others.)

Here’s the bottom line:
Sources said an inquiry would apply only to activities by interrogators, working in bad faith, that fell outside the "four corners" of the legal memos. . . . The actions of higher-level Bush policymakers are not under consideration for possible investigation.

So, this would be a bottom-feeder investigation, fishing up minnows while deliberately ignoring the sharks — and while pretending the minnows actually are sharks.

Per other links within his post, Greenwald notes that letting John Yoo’s opinion stand as final is essentially Nixonian: “If the president does it, it’s not illegal.” (Tim at Balloon Juice has more.)

Scott Horton claims Holder plans a real investigation, but his claim is undercut by the New York Times, which agrees in broad outline with the Post story linked at top.

Scott, like Glenn, is too smart to fall for sandbagging, at least I think he is, so I don’t know what’s up.

Anyway, to tie back to the Newsweek fluff, rather than this being a sign of Holder’s independence, you have to wonder if this was discussed in detail with the Obama White House.

Dear Obama – if you really want ‘big challenges’

President Barack Obama in his straw man Washington Post column, claimed he had big changes coming down the pike. Well, I’m going to raise the ante on him, which won’t be that hard, since he’s not playing as big of stakes as he claims.

So, let’s go:
1. Challenge Congress to pass a public campaign finance bill for Congressional elections — including with reasonable provisions for third-party candidates;
2. Push state legislatures to pass Iowa-type nonpartisan redistricting commission legislation — that’s your Kumbaya moment, if you will, or your post-partisan moment;

3. If you really want to be daring, and do something counterintuitive, call on Congress to pass an amendment extending House terms to four years, to get the “permanent campaign” at least a little bit out of American federal politics;

4. Admit you’re wrong on “looking forward,” indefinite detention proposals you’ve made yourself and a lot of related issues, and throw your full support behind Attorney General Holder as he weighs a torture-related special prosecutor;

5. Actually use the budget reconciliation process to pass a healthcare bill — with public-payer option — through the Senate, don’t just talk about it;

6. Repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” by executive order, just as President Truman did to desegregate the armed forces and let Congress catch up;

7. Do
like Bob Herbert said, though he didn’t use this exact language, and restart the Civilian Conservation Corps or Works Projects Administration — if unions object, well, then prod Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act as a trade-off;
8. Instead of playing around the edges on education, learn from every other advanced nation, and get our K-12 schools to have a school year of at least 200 days, if not longer — THAT would be educational leadership of boldness.

That’s not everything, but that punches the clock on a lot of big-ticket items.

Obama - file this under ‘straw man’ column

President Barack Obama’s new Washington Post column says fairly little while trying to give the impression of saying a lot. And, per previous criticisms, he frequently plays the “straw man” card:
There are some who say we must wait to meet our greatest challenges. They favor an incremental approach or believe that doing nothing is somehow an answer. But that is exactly the thinking that led us to this predicament.

Who are the “some”? If they’re allegedly House and Senate Republicans, stop singing Kumbaya and name them. Otherwise, is the “incremental approach” comment a signal for a second stimulus, since the column is about the country’s financial condition?

Next, put on your “irony alert” glasses:
Ignoring big challenges and deferring tough decisions is what Washington has done for decades, and it's exactly what I sought to change by running for president.

Let’s see… first stimulus bill arguably too small, and with no White House leadership; not much WH leadership on national healthcare; not much, in terms of legislative involvement on Waxman-Markey; stalling the clock out on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and otherwise doing little on gay rights; reverting to, or even expanding, BushCo policies on indefinite detention, state secrets, etc.

Yep, that’s just the opposite of “ignoring big challenges and deferring tough decisions”!

Meanwhile, here’s another biggie!
We believe it's time to reform our community colleges…

Instead of doing that, why not learn from every other advanced nation, and get our K-12 schools to have a school year of at least 200 days, if not longer? THAT would be educational leadership of boldness.

And, given that Congressional Republicans are now formally on record as opposing a second stimulus, what bold leadership will Obama show here?

As with many other things, I’m not holding my breath.

(For some suggestions for real change, go here.)

We are the straw men. We are the straw men.

Hope in Honduras with Zelaya amnesty offer?

With a government curfew lifted, Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti has now broached the possibility of an amnesty for ousted (ex)-President Manuel Zelaya.

Meanwhile, some tensions remain. Honduran police detained members of a Venezuelan TV crew for a while, and of course, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez went overboard, not only protesting that, but also insinuating that American President Barack Obama supported Zelaya’s outster.

Now, Zelaya can prove this is not about him, if he will accept the amnesty, as part of a package deal of items, perhaps.

The dissolution of the American dream in poetry


The midsummer Texas sun at set
Peers through thin bars of altostratus,
An atom bomb on the western landscape,
The fiery, angry dissolution of another day.
America sinks with the dying sun,
Another day of present gone;
Hostage to the past, wasted for the future.
A nation rests on its laurels, its people
Blissfully unaware how thin that padding is,
Let alone its irradiate future.
We are the atom land. We are the atom land.
Blackened inside, DNA deranged,
Yet not knowing when we will burst.

-- July 8, 2009

Spies like … Papa Hemingway

Or rather, should we call him “Argo,” as the KGB did?

Swiss bank accounts secrets on hold

The governments of both the United States and Switzerland, along with international banker UBS, have asked that the legal process to uncover Americans’ secret Swiss bank accounts be put on hold pending the result of continuing settlement talks.

Hmm. If a real settlement results, OK. But, given the neoliberal Obama Administration being larded up with Wall Street friendlies, etc., I won’t hold my breath on that 100 percent.

Whale watching wows

Dogs and cats likely don’t have the complexity of emotions, let alone the self-awareness, that humans, other primates and elephants do, but it’s clearer by the day that whales not only do, they may even top our non-human cousins in their psychological complexity.

If even some GOP don’t want Palin, no Dems will

Why is stb-ex Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin talking about campaigning for conservative Democrats next year, as well?
“I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation,” she said

Well, if you thought the GOP establishment, in large part, thought she was either an idiot or incompetent before — or just didn’t like her — you ain’t seen nothing yet. She has approached the Ron Paul neighborhood now, I think.

As for effectiveness? Since a majority of proclaimed independent voters already say they just want her to go away, what conservative Democrat would touch her, even in the general election?

Meanwhile, loosely connected to this angle, Frank Rich becomes the latest columnist to blast The Quitter with a Twitter™.

All this said, don’t be surprised to see her as …

The Constitution Party presidential candidate in 2012.

Either that, or we have someone who just will not quit the 15 minutes of claim soapbox, with a side order of her trying to pre-fluff her book sales audience.

Open manhole almost makes Darwin Award winner

Another solipsistic, gadget-absorbed young American almost got killed by her self-absorption.

New York City 15-year-old Alexa Longueira fell in an open manhole while cell-phone texting and walking. She, of course, blames only the city of New York.
"Regardless of whether I'm texting or not if there was a cone there I'm going to see a big orange cone," she said. "I walk that sidewalk every day, I don't expect a big hole there.”

Wrong. I’ll allow your young age to excuse you from any knowledge of cognitive science, etc. But, of course, in reality, we drive and walk familiar routes on autopilot all the time, even without such added distractions. The only reason you haven’t walked into another person is (unless you have already) they’ve been alert enough to avoid you. Of course, Ms. Longueira is likely to do the same thing while driving in a few years.

Ken Burns wrapping ‘10th inning’ Baseball sequel

Breaking a promise never to do a sequel on one of his documentaries, Ken Burns is doing a “10th inning” follow-up to his hugely successful “Baseball.” Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan has an overview of the documentary’s subjects (steroids an obvious one), a day in his work and more.

Now, can Burns get that all down to two hours? Anyway, read the overview.

Update, Sept. 26: Burns actually is having two segments on PBS, so I assume that means four hours, not two. That would be good, if he had done more with it.

But, as Jim Caple notes, he didn't, starting with his failure to interview living players. I totally agree with Caple of the inanity of having a Doris Kearns Goodwin on instead of actual players. Hell, Bob Herbert, of recent column fame on the death of Bobby Thomson, would be better than the pompous twit George Will. And, if we're putting labels on names, how do we know Goodwin isn't plagiarizing?

And, here's some less serious, but still notable, trends that Burns overlooked.

Schlesinger: Nuke-free world bad, not good

With rogue nations like North Korea around, it’s hard to totally argue with former Defense and Energy secretary James Schlesinger arguing against nuclear disarmament, right?


In fact, he undercuts himself in his own column, citing Japanese political leader Ichiro Ozawa’s claim it had enough plutonium for several thousand warheads, and the skill to ramp up quickly. Obviously, we could do the same, especially if we built breeder reactors as all our future nuclear reactors.

WaPost could trim $20M deficit with mgr cuts

In a self-generated “explainer” about its recent salons for $$ flop, the Wasington Post let out this tidbit.

It said one meeting about the salon was discussed by more than 200 managers.

Wow. The Post still has more than 200 managers? 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.

Needed – a new WPA or CCC

After roughly chiding both Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for, in different ways and with different excuses, claiming they didn’t know the economy was this bad six months ago, Bob Herbert says the country needs something like FDR’s jobs agencies, like the Works Progress Administration or Public Works Administration. Or, even better, the New Deal exemplar, the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Given our crumbling infrastructure, that’s one area that needs the help for sure, and it’s high on Herbert’s jobs list.

Honda Insight 2.0 a bit below hype

I normally agree with Dallas Morning Snooze auto writer Terry Box about once in a brilliant Republican idea, especially because he seems to have a quasi-paranoid animus against hybrids, but, his Honda Insight 2.0 review looks like it’s dead on the money.

In exchange for making the new version of the Insight cheaper than the Prius 2.0, let alone the Prius 3.0 that’s on its way to the U.S. after a smash opening in Japan, Honda did a couple of things. One, they used a simplified, even dumbed-down version of the full-blown hybrid drive that something like a Prius has. In pre-release hype, Honda claimed it was still something competitive with the Prius in this area. Wrong.

The fact that the Insight 2.0 gets better highway than city gas mileage makes clear this baby isn’t a “full” hybrid at all. Plus, and even worse from a marketing standpoint, Box says from a dead stop, the hybrid system is rough to engage.

And, it gets much of its gas mileage from being more underpowered than the Prius 2.0, let alone the 3.0. Read the full review for details; when it’s time to buy my next vehicle, I’ll look for a used late-generation Prius 2.0 over this.

British go oinkers over swine flu fear

The British government has been told that swine flu in the UK is pushing near country-paralyzing epidemic levels. Of major concern is that the Underground could be severely affected.