August 08, 2009

Climate change = national security issue

Maybe the astroturfers and climate change denialists within the GOP will finally sit up and take notice. John Kerry is trying exactly that angle as the initial Senate spadework on Waxman-Markey starts.

Team Obama backs off Big Pharma deal

The national healthcare debate, ’winger pseudo-debate aside, gets more interesting by the day. The latest? The Obama Administration’s claim that a deal with Big Pharma is NOT written in stone, at least not in the details.

Ultimately, though, this gets back to two problems with the Administration.

One, of course, is that Obama simply didn’t show enough leadership at the start of the legislative process. And, what statements he did make were themselves not written in stone as to priorities, non-negotiables, etc.

Second is an overstaffed White House staff, in my opinion. Who speaks with what authority, what clearance, and what advance interoffice communication? Details in the article show these are all continuing issues.

Astroturfers say ‘get Reps. off prepared script’ on health

Ahh, the irony alert and hypocrisy alert daily double at work.

If anybody has a “prepared script,” including a prepared script for disrespect and intimidation, it’s astroturfing corporate groups and their far-right political action group fellow travelers.
“Pack the hall,” said a strategy memo circulated by the Web site Tea Party Patriots that instructed, “Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

“Get him off his prepared script and agenda,” the memo continued. “Stand up and shout and sit right back down.”

That said, liberals need to respond with firmness but WITHOUT violence; we do not need more Russ Carnahan town halls.

National healthcare and thuggers = possibly political shifts

Earlier this week, several polls came out noting that support for public-option national healthcare HUGELY divided on age lines, with senior citizens either largely deceived by Republican lies that Medicare allegedly isn't a government program, or else out of pure "I got mine" greed, strongly opposed, 40-64 folks neutral to favorable and under 40 definitely favorable.

Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post, after calling the deceptions oriented toward the first group of seniors “a flat-out lie”:
By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

closes with a note to the Jim DeMints of the world, on the political issue:
If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Indeed, if we want to put this in terms of raw political calculus, this can be a counter-shift as big or bigger than Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” only this time, generational.

So, can, and will, Obama do it? Stay tuned.

Here's why Cornyn knows Obama is telling truth about town hall thuggery

Texas Sen. John Cornyn wants President Barack Obama to stop talking about an “enemies list” behind disruptions of Congressional town halls and such.

The idea that Cornyn, who sometimes flirts with the edges of reality, thinks Obama’s asking people to report GOP and ’winger Astroturf groups lies and misinformation about healthcare issues is sending secret information to the president, this one is so laughable, in part, because Cornyn knows tea-baggers better from personal experience:



First, Obama the (actual) violator of civil liberties could have his telco immunity buddy, AT&T, team up with the NSA and take care of this in secret if he really were of the mindset Cornyn attributes to him.

Second, people can send their e-mails through routers or anonymizers.

Third, they can stop sending lying e-mails! Hey, there’s an idea for Whackjob Cornyn!

Rather, I hope he ups the ante. Cornyn’s whining shows this might just stick. And, having seen these nutbars protest against HIM on the Fourth of July, he knows what they are like.

A longer video reminder of what Cornyn knows about these thuggery:



More information about actual thuggery on the jump.

In St. Louis, Rep. Russ Carnahan was the target, though liberals were prepared. The result? A big pre town-hall fracas, which included multiple apparent “assault by cop” actions against healthcare supporters.

Remember, police generally come from the more conservative elements of society.

In Wisconsin, a protestor claming to be “just a mom” with “not affiliated with any political party” gets exposed as a big liar — a member of the Republican National Committee.

And good on Steve Pearlstein of the WaPost for calling the lies of folks like this “a flat-out lie.”
By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

And he closes with a note to the Jim DeMints of the world:
If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Indeed, if we want to put this in terms of raw political calculus, this can be a counter-shift as big or bigger than Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” only this time, generational.

And now, astroturf-teabag intimidation spreads to unions

The latest? The St. Louis headquarters of the SEIU has received a threatening phone call – along with additional threats by Twitter.

August 07, 2009

Astroturf-teabag intimidation spreads to unions

The latest? The St. Louis headquarters of the SEIU has received a threatening phone call – along with additional threats by Twitter.

Prez Kumbaya instead of William Jennings Bryan

Yes, instead of the hand-holding, “post-partisan” Barack Obama, on an issue like national healthcare, we needed William Jennings Bryan reminding everybody, especially in those “blue dog” Democratic House districts, how we are being crucified on a cross of spiraling heatlh costs and denied insurance claims and coverage.

But, there’s several problems.

First, Prez Kumbaya has possibly been singing with the wrong crowd, and repeatedly.

Next, as the prez allegedly continues his “full-court press” (only if he’s playing on an elementary school cafeteria gym floor), he’s not warning us that, by saying IT will get healthcare reform done, the health insurance industry is getting ready to do more crucifying of the American public.

What’s going to happen is something like Waxman-Markey: A “cure” that is a Band-Aid, and a small one at that, and that kicks the problem down the road enough to potentially be worse than doing nothing.

Forget the “angry black man” worries, just be angry. But, per the first link, not very likely.

Update, Aug. 3:You read a column like this one by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and you, if you’re like me, think one of the following, or more:

Why isn’t Obama saying this himself?
Why wasn’t Obama, Sebelius or somebody from the administration saying any of this a month or more ago?
Is Obama telling this face-to-face to Blue Dog Democrats?

Meanwhile, Obama has AGAIN flip-flopped on the role of groups like MoveOn, once more saying he DOESN’T want them pressuring him and Congressional Dems from the left.

And, ultimately, on which side will a president who opted out of public campaign financing find his bread buttered?

Earlier this week, several polls came out noting that support for public-option national healthcare HUGELY divided on age lines, with senior citizens either largely deceived by Republican lies that Medicare allegedly isn't a government program, or else out of pure "I got mine" greed, strongly opposed, 40-64 folks neutral to favorable and under 40 definitely favorable.

Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post, after calling the deceptions oriented toward the first group of seniors “a flat-out lie”:
By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

closes with a note to the Jim DeMints of the world, on the political issue:
If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Indeed, if we want to put this in terms of raw political calculus, this can be a counter-shift as big or bigger than Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” only this time, generational.

So, can, and will, Obama do it? Stay tuned.

Update, Aug. 13:Obama HAS lost control of healthcare debate – and why

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs may dodge the issue, whether artfully or not (I say not; he’s becoming Ari Fleischer-like), but I think many supporters of major healthcare reform, let alone opponents, agree that President Barack Obama has lost control of the debate on the issue (if he ever was on top of it in the first place).

Why? Beyond the reasons above ...

Another reason? As exemplified on his approach to economic issues, he’s a micromanager. Elsewhere, he’s been described as “professorial” in his public speaking style on big issues. Neither works with this.

And, Paul Krugman wonders how Obama “will deal with the death of his postpartisan dream ,” then notes he has part of the blame for his lack of pushing and explaining the bill, first, and his lack of passion, second.

A note on Waxman-Markey poll

The Waxman-Markey poll results have been resent to "zero"; I refuse to accept that 90 percent of people who would read my environmental stance on issues, and come here to do that, would vote for option NO. 1 as the best.

Killing Pakistani Taliban leader may help neither it nor US

Will the U.S. killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud reduce Taliban power in Pakistan? Reduce violence? Help the U.S.?

The answer MIGHT be “no” on all three counts, and certainly is not a guaranteed “yes.”

The resulting power vacuum could worsen things. So could Pakistan’s ISI, if it still wants to play ball with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, it’s started to destabilize the Pakistani Taliban.

Was GM-Chrysler bankruptcy too quick?

CNN has a very good news analysis on how the short-term benefit of a “quick rinse” bankruptcy could be offset in the long term by a variety of counter-factors.

Astroturf & tea-bag ‘political terrorist’ action continues

In St. Louis, Rep. Russ Carnahan was the target, though liberals were prepared. The result? A big pre town-hall fracas, which included multiple apparent “assault by cop” actions against healthcare supporters.

Remember, police generally come from the more conservative elements of society.

In Wisconsin, a protestor claming to be “just a mom” with “not affiliated with any political party” gets exposed as a big liar — a member of the Republican National Committee.

And good on Steve Pearlstein of the WaPost for calling the lies of folks like this “a flat-out lie.”
By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

And he closes with a note to the Jim DeMints of the world:
If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Indeed, if we want to put this in terms of raw political calculus, this can be a counter-shift as big or bigger than Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” only this time, generational.

Russia behind Twitter-Facebook DDoS attack?

Given that a Georgian blogger/Facebooker/Twitterer was the target, who else is it likely to be?

Dem senators want more on climate bill

It’s a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, the changes to Waxman-Markey that 10 reportedly “moderate” Democratic Senators want.

I think they’re asking too much protection for coal, but I agree with their insistence that Obama support, and even toughen, the carbon tariffs of W-M, and some other of their ideas.

Still tough reality behind unemployment drop

Behind the drop in unemployment, the Obama Administration warns it could still hit 10 percent, and part of the reason for the drop may have been a drop in people actively looking for work, always a troubling sign.

Feds offer swine flu advice to schools

The information from Washington includes guidelines on school closings.

TABC admits fault in Rainbow raid; Fort Worth PD stalls

The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission, after already admitting it shouldn’t have had agents at the raid of the gay bar Rainbow Lounge in June, released a detailed internal investigation yesterday; meanwhile, the Fort Worth Police Department says it will miss an Aug. 18 deadline to complete its own internal review.

Boy, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead sounds like more and more of a sandbagger to protect bad cops by the day, especially since the TABC report makes clear the FWPD took the lead on the raid.

One-week and four-week jobless claims drop

Still just tentatively tentative OK news ahead of the July unemployment numbers, but this is a sliver of hope.

August 06, 2009

But WHICH dictator do Iranians want dead?

Iranian protestors are now chanting “Death to the Dictator” – but, which one?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inaugurated for his second term just a day ago? Or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei?

Geithner passes buck on recession’s regulatory lapses

President Barack Obama’s worst (and least surprising) Cabinet appointment, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, continues to be both thin-skinned and protective of Goldman Sachs types at the same time.

The latest? As folks from places like the FDIC say his proposed financial regulation reform is a sham, he is blaming all of them for lapses that cause the recession in the first place, rather than looking in the mirror at his own time as head of the New York Federal Reserve.

How do you measure success in Afghanistan?

My short and snarky-serious answer is “how quickly the U.S. gets out.”

On the more serious side, the Obama Administration is trying to develop metrics for Congress. They claim this is a serious effort; of course, the metrics are dependent on already-established goals and timetables.

Irony alert – unions to tackle healthcare astroturfers

Huffington Post says AFL-CIO member unions will directly counter the healthcare astroturfers disrupting Congressional town halls.

The memo from AFL-CIO head Richard Sweeney also mentions specific items of support in healthcare reform — including the “public option.”

This is coming from the third leg of the stool of OPPOSITION to public national healthcare for the last 50-plus years.

Alaska glaciers show 50 years of melt

Instead of the Quitter with a Twitter™ Sarah Palin worried about her clothes, image and shooting wolves from the air, and George W. Bush trying to sell out ANWR, maybe they should have been paying attention to Alaska’s melting glaciers instead.

Mod Max Baucus strangles health ins public option

Mod Max Baucus and his Senate Finance Committee Gang of Six have put the finishing touches on gutting the public option on health insurance. And, if you expect a federal government alternatingly lead by neolib Dems and yahoo GOPers to actually regulate health insurance companies tightly enough to save us all money, I have some palm trees in Baucus' Montana to sell you, complete with lobbyist funding to buy them.

Beyond no public option, here’s what else is missing:
• Details of how the government will more tightly regulate health insurers, when the federal government doesn’t even have an office for that right now, and only the semi-toothless Federal Trade Commission to oversee advertising claims.
• Any plan to address fee-for-service doctor payments, which almost everybody agrees is a significant part of the problem.
• Guarantees that big insurers won’t be able to “game” the health-insurance coops that are being proposed as a VERY poor person’s substitute for the public option.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Team Obama continues its sellout to Big Pharma.

So relax, folks. You are going to get screwed; the astroturfers could have saved their Tea Party money; the lobbyist money worked just fine by itself.

Obama-Baucus healthcare sellout continues - why the astroturfing?

Texas Sen. John Cornyn claims President Barack Obama is assembling an “enemies list” about people behind disruptions of Congressional town halls and such.

Byron York joins Cornyn on the conspiracy theory of a secret presidential database being compiled.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele refuses to denounce any violence, intimidation or threats associated with these groups.

Why are they even worried?

Mod Max Baucus and his Senate Finance Committee Gang of Six have put the finishing touches on gutting the public option on health insurance. And, if you expect a federal government alternatingly lead by neolib Dems and yahoo GOPers to actually regulate health insurance companies tightly enough to save us all money, I have some palm trees in Baucus' Montana to sell you, complete with lobbyist funding to buy them.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Team Obama continues its sellout to Big Pharma.

So relax, folks. You are going to get screwed; the astroturfers could have saved their Tea Party money; the lobbyist money worked just fine by itself.

Is anybody else's Twitter effing up?

I cannot post new Tweets right now... POS.

Murdoch to charge to read all online papers

Of course, the Wall Street Journal already charges for some content, but this is news indeed, and good news.

My only question is, does he mean just staff-generated news, or is he going to try to charge for wires, too?

To me, this has been one of the biggest failures of Dean Singleton as head of the Associated Press — the failure to push for a paywall, perhaps as a mandatory requirement under the new AP package, then doubling or tripling charges to Yahoo, Google, et al. And, playing hardball with AFP and Reuters if they don’t want to play along.

That said, in the early days of free, marketing-based passwords, people spread around passwords like candy. Murdoch will have to have a tough line on reserving the right to cancel online-only subscriptions at any time, on suspicions of password sharing.

Steele, ’wingers, join Cornyn - OK ugliness, fight exposure

Texas Sen. John Cornyn wants President Barack Obama to stop talking about an “enemies list” behind disruptions of Congressional town halls and such.

The idea that Cornyn, who sometimes flirts with the edges of reality, thinks Obama’s asking people to report GOP and ’winger Astroturf groups lies and misinformation about healthcare issues is sending secret information to the president, this one is so laughable.

Byron York joins Cornyn on the conspiracy theory of a secret presidential database being compiled.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele refuses to denounce any violence, intimidation or threats associated with these groups.

Anyway, here’s some more of the truth Cornyn, York and Steele don’t want you to hear about these demagogues:

North Carolina Rep. Brad Miller has had threats on his life and won’t do town halls. Other Congressmen are seeing more and more scenes of ugliness.

The LA Times has more on some of the ugliness.

Speaking of not telling the truth:
"We never condone disruptive behavior," said Amy Menefee, spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, which says it has 700,000 members. "We always tell people to be civil and respectful."


And, where are Cornyn and Steele, especially? Are they disavowing this? Noooo.

Update, Aug. 6: Astroturf & tea-bag ‘political terrorist’ action continues:

In St. Louis, Rep. Russ Carnahan was the target, though liberals were prepared. The result? A big pre town-hall fracas, which included multiple apparent “assault by cop” actions against healthcare supporters.

Remember, police generally come from the more conservative elements of society.

In Wisconsin, a protestor claming to be “just a mom” with “not affiliated with any political party” gets exposed as a big liar — a member of the Republican National Committee.

And good on Steve Pearlstein of the WaPost for calling the lies of folks like this “a flat-out lie.”
By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

And he closes with a note to the Jim DeMints of the world:
If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Indeed, if we want to put this in terms of raw political calculus, this can be a counter-shift as big or bigger than Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” only this time, generational.

August 05, 2009

More of the truth Whackjob Cornyn doesn't want told on healthcare

Texas Sen. John Cornyn wants President Barack Obama to stop talking about an “enemies list” behind disruptions of Congressional town halls and such.

The idea that Cornyn, who sometimes flirts with the edges of reality, thinks Obama’s asking people to report GOP and ’winger Astroturf groups lies and misinformation about healthcare issues is sending secret information to the president, this one is so laughable.

Anyway, here’s some more of the truth Cornyn doesn’t want you to hear about these demagogues:

North Carolina Rep. Brad Miller has had threats on his life and won’t do town halls.

Whackjob Cornyn asks Obama to stop telling the truth

Texas Sen. John Cornyn wants President Barack Obama to stop talking about an “enemies list” behind disruptions of Congressional town halls and such.

The idea that Cornyn, who sometimes flirts with the edges of reality, thinks Obama’s asking people to report GOP and ’winger Astroturf groups lies and misinformation about healthcare issues is sending secret information to the president, this one is so laughable…

Especially since Cornyn knows better from personal experience, just a month ago!



First, Obama the (actual) violator of civil liberties could have his telco immunity buddy, AT&T, team up with the NSA and take care of this in secret if he really were of the mindset Cornyn attributes to him.

Second, people can send their e-mails through routers or anonymizers.

Third, they can stop sending lying e-mails! Hey, there’s an idea for Whackjob Cornyn!

Rather, I hope he ups the ante. Cornyn’s whining shows this might just stick. And, having seen these nutbars protest against HIM on the Fourth of July, he knows what they are like.

Follow-up thoughts here,
here and here.

Update, Aug. 6: Astroturf & tea-bag ‘political terrorist’ action continues:

In St. Louis, Rep. Russ Carnahan was the target, though liberals were prepared. The result? A big pre town-hall fracas, which included multiple apparent “assault by cop” actions against healthcare supporters.

Remember, police generally come from the more conservative elements of society.

In Wisconsin, a protestor claming to be “just a mom” with “not affiliated with any political party” gets exposed as a big liar — a member of the Republican National Committee.

And good on Steve Pearlstein of the WaPost for calling the lies of folks like this “a flat-out lie.”
By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

And he closes with a note to the Jim DeMints of the world:
If health reform is to be anyone's Waterloo, let it be theirs.

Indeed, if we want to put this in terms of raw political calculus, this can be a counter-shift as big or bigger than Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” only this time, generational.

GOP needs to ‘drive a stake through old Dixie’

That’s the money quote from Kathleen Parker. And, the “flexibly conservative” columnist, who would be at least as good as Douthat on the NYT pages, says, he’s more right than wrong.

At the same time, she calls “hypocrisy alert” on folks like Voinovich:
Though Voinovich's views may be shared by others in the party, it's a tad late -- not to mention ungrateful -- to indict the South. Republicans have been harvesting Southern votes for decades from seeds strategically planted during the civil rights era.

It’s a good column; give it a read.

Lancaster ISD does it again on a superintendent

After a monster executive session, the suburban Dallas school district failed to come to terms with the person it announced as its choice for the position this spring.

I will guess that at least $30K a year, if not $40-50K, separated the two sides, along with length of contract and/or buyout provisions.

Well, now we know how lowballing the Lancaster School Board is. Good luck hiring a mid-year superintendent with that now on the record.

Beyond that, did you not have at least some discussion on salary issues before you tapped Ms. Morris?

Cash for clunkers 5 – NOT a real gas saver

Reuters estimates cash for clunkers sales will reduce US gas usage by … just one-twentieth of one percent, though more sales may increase that to a whopping one-quarter percengt.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that the EPA requirements on the newly-purchased models, if run higher, would likely have increased efficiency.

at the expense of formerly Big Three sales in the program.

Now, the program may get Americans to think more about fuel efficiency, but it’s unlikely. On the other hand, the efforts of Andrew J. Hall, arguably the king of oil commodities future speculators, may do that.

So, instead of that, why doesn’t Obama push for the legislation to put bozos like him out of business and replace his “skimming” with an increased gas tax?

Anti-green cash for clunkers still on for now

Unfortunately, Sen. Diane Feinstein, after first vowing to block its extension, is now on board.

Here are parts 1, 2,
3, 4 and 5 of my series on why “cash for clunkers” is not just a non-environmental auto bailout plan, but an anti-environmental one.

Dean Singleton looks at paywall model?

At least some non-daily newspapers owned by MediaNews are putting their content behind a subscription wall. You can do that with non-AP content, which, of course, is the basis of non-daily newspapers.

Even with them, it’s a bit behind the curve.

Next, will Dean-o try to figure out a way to do this with the Associated Press?

Healthcare change is working on Bay State

A Boston Globe editorial has the statement and the details behind the claim. I think they’re reasonably right, but the state will have tougher choices in the future, just like when Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform” punted some tough issues down the road.

And, a “public option” would be a tool to help with those tough choices, but, you can’t expect something like that to be done on a state-by-state basis. Southern states would, again, engage in a race to the bottom, which is exactly why Southern Senators promote, if anything concrete, a “federalized” healthcare “reform” plan.

Massachusetts, beyond not wanting to have a state-based “public option,” also benefits from a low rate of uninsureds as a starting point, and also, surely, from a stronger state regulatory climate than a place like here in Tejas.

Half a Twitter problem solved

With a little widget from Hashrocket you can now block people you follow on Twitter, if they turn out to be spammers.

Now, if we could just get the flip side, with a widget to auto-block people who try to follow US, as spammers.

John Wiley Price wants NTTA to do better on minorities

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price thinks the North Texas Tollway Authority can do a better job on minority contracting. And, he’s not alone. Cedar Hill City Manager Alan Sims, an NTTA board member, and others, agree.

JWP can still do some good here, as long as he doesn’t look for contracts for “his friends.”

The other ‘real’ Richard Wolffe problem

Besides a PR flak and lobbyist being masqueraded as a newsman by MSNBC, we have the other problem of his proposed “30 days with Obama” book. The real problem with that is that he cozied up previous Obama access while getting ready to work for a GOP operative. If Wolffe gets a book deal, it will be one more sign in Obama’s true colors.

Obama flip-flops again on MoveOn

President Barack Obama has AGAIN flip-flopped on the role of groups like MoveOn, once more saying he DOESN’T want them pressuring him and Congressional Dems from the left.

Early in his administration, speaking generically, he said he wanted pressure from the left. Then, he repeated it about national healthcare. Then, when folks like MoveOn got serious, he said “hold on.”

After that, he changed back to a “big tent” stance. Now, he says, “hold on” again.

What do you expect from a president who opted out of public campaign financing?

Big Pharma ghostwrites medical research

Is something like Wyeth ghostwriting research reports to boost hormone therapy not only an argument for the “public option” on national healthcare, but, for a variety of other issues, namely:

• Big Pharma advertising being regulated like Big Tobacco or Big Alcohol advertising;
• Public financing of Congressional campaigns;
• A “public option” for pharmaceutical coverage, as a separate sidebar;
• Getting rid of Team Obama’s deals with Big Pharma, including blocking reimportation from Canada.

Just about as despicable is DesignWrite, the Princeton-based “medical communications company” (in NYTimes-ese) that did at least 20 such reports. And the doctors who assisted with this.

Perry and Hutchison to get it on

In debates, folks, not some new, interesting, political and personal version of the Texas two-step.

The fact that Hutchison has issued the debate challenge seems to me to reflect the doings of her new campaign staffers. Now, who wants how many?

More on Duncanville TX tax increase possibility

As I noted yesterday, it looks like the "City of Champions" could be the city of higher property taxes, per this information from the city's website.

DUNCANVILLE CITY COUNCIL
WORKSHOP
THURSDAY, AUGUST 6, 2009, 8:30 A.M.

Duncanville Library/Community Center
Meeting Rooms 1, 2 & 3
201 James Collins Blvd.

AGENDA

1. Discuss proposed budget for FY 09-10.

1. Consider calling a public hearing on August 18, 2009 on a tax increase due to the fact the proposed tax rate will exceed the rollback rate or the effective tax rate, whichever is lower.


For official state information on both rollback and effective tax rates, go here.

I'm going to take a gander that this is due to slumping property valuations, and that the city, to run the same budget as last year, even with furlough days or something, will bust either the effective or rollback ceiling.

Of course, there is always the possibility of losing a rollback election. To avoid that, how much more will the city have to cut, and where, if my gandering is correct?

Shortened library and rec center hours, with some layoffs. Furlough days, to be sure. City salary freeze. That's among starters.

August 04, 2009

Blackwater founder a murderer?

That’s what affidavits filed in federal court claim – that Blackwater founder Erik Prince either murdered or facilitated the murder of federal witnesses.

Amongst many other things. Read Jeremy Scahill’s story.

Corporate taxes whine proof astroturfers behind protestors

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never, myself, heard the average John or Jane Doe whine about federal corporate income taxes being too high.

But, an alleged group of John and Jane Does did whine about exactly that to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congressman Michael Arcuri at a news conference.

And, this Don Jeror is no innocent. He’s a, Tea Party organizer, and we know those events, even with “real people” present, are ultimately astroturfed.

If you’re on Twitter, give him a Tweet: @DonJeror.

Sebelius defends national healthcare better than Obama

You read a column like this one by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and you, if you’re like me, think one of the following, or more:

Why isn’t Obama saying this himself?
Why wasn’t Obama, Sebelius or somebody from the administration saying any of this a month or more ago?
Is Obama telling this face-to-face to Blue Dog Democrats?

Dallas Morning News planning more layoffs?

A source of mine says it's likely. And, sadly, it's not hard to see why.

I took a gander at today's paper, not to read a single story, but to eyeball inches on display ads. Here's a quick summary.

  • Front section? About 30 percent ads, decent amount of them color.
  • Metro? Almost adless, not counting obits.
  • Guide section? About 10 percent, not counting the four pages of advertorial. (And, how many people, like me, wonder if newspapers will eventually take the "advertorial" tag off advertorial items, if there's any way they can?)
  • Business section? It did have a full-page color Ebby Halliday ad at back. Otherwise, not counting classifieds, about 10 percent ads.
  • ONE non-classified ad in the entire sports section. (That said, people who defend major daily newspaper sports coverage in general? Sure, people may read it, but it's always been below normal on display ad inches. If you are, or have been, in the journalism business and still want to try to defend it, stop. It is indefensible from a business position.)
  • Overall? About 15 percent display ads.

For people who don't know, a healthy margin is about 60-40 advertising to editorial copy. And since, traditionally, major newspapers have relied 75 percent on advertising, 25 percent on circulation, now you can understand just how bad of trouble this is.

And, most auto ads? Never coming back. Real estate? Will be slow, even in a relatively "bubbleless" DFW.

As for going more and more online? People still haven't figured out how to adequately monetize online ad revenues. And, while you save trees, paper, ink and press costs, you still need (theoretically) web copy editors, online content/upload editors, etc.

Blogging? That's like the Morning News thinking it's like the NY Times editorial page during Times Select times. You see much in the way of ad revenue there?

Duncanville TX facing tax increase?

It looks like the "City of Champions" could be the city of higher property taxes, per this information from the city's website.

DUNCANVILLE CITY COUNCIL
WORKSHOP
THURSDAY, AUGUST 6, 2009, 8:30 A.M.

Duncanville Library/Community Center
Meeting Rooms 1, 2 & 3
201 James Collins Blvd.

AGENDA

1. Discuss proposed budget for FY 09-10.

1. Consider calling a public hearing on August 18, 2009 on a tax increase due to the fact the proposed tax rate will exceed the rollback rate or the effective tax rate, whichever is lower.


For official state information on both rollback and effective tax rates, go here.

I'm going to take a gander that this is due to slumping property valuations, and that the city, to run the same budget as last year, even with furlough days or something, will bust either the effective or rollback ceiling.

The stupidity of trying to work for Barnes and Noble

I visited my nearest B&N yesterday, job-hunting.

As expected, I was told it had no openings right now. I asked if I could have an application. As halfway expected, I was directed toward the website.

First, the B&N’s main page’s most obvious careers link is only for corporate jobs.

Second, if you find the correct link, for store jobs, you read:
If you want to join our community of booksellers, please check out our job listings on HotJobs.com, or download a job application and take it to your local store.

So, I can go through the Rube Goldberg world of visiting a local store, being told to go to the website, then being told to take a job app form from there back to a local store?

Well, if B&N goes under, either to Borders or to nothingness, we’ve already got one example of its corporate “brilliance.”

Example No. 2, of “brilliance,” in a combination of cheapness, stupidity and more is in the same sentence above. If you do want to look for B&N jobs online, they don’t even list them at their own website. (HotJobs is a Yahoo service.)

Update: Per a friend of mine, commenting here, B&N is supposed to have applications available locally. (Honestly, I would have thought so, but in the Internet world of today, you never know.) So, a lazy, or whatever, employee gets the company a black eye, at least a bit of one.

Climate and environment round-up – cars, UN, beetles

First, is the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at risk of becoming irrelevant? If so, does it need to start offering specific climate-control prescriptions?

Second, how green, really, is “cash for clunkers”? Or similar programs for older household appliances? Not very, at bottom line.

Third, even as the neoliberal Waxman-Markey plan has yet to start consideration in the U.S. Senate, and may not even meet watered-down U.S. carbon-dioxide targets, the nation has another carbon problem — beetle infestation in western forests, making them less and less of a “carbon sink.”

A great indictment of Obama the neolib

Salon’s Michael Lind nails his hide to the wall and explains why you shouldn’t really be expecting that much out of him.

A sampling:
The fact that Robert Rubin's son James helped select Obama's economic team may not be irrelevant.

Well, I don’t know if Michael was deliberately being tongue in cheek or what, but, his next sentence is:
Instead of the updated Rooseveltonomics that America needs, Obama's team offers warmed-over Rubinomics from the 1990s.

He then plays this out in more detail in three areas — healthcare, education and the environment.

His bottom line? Obama needs “deprogramming” from the cult of neoliberalism.

Cash for clunkers 4 – the un-greenness extends beyond cars

In a special news analysis story, Gwen Ottinger takes an environmentally skeptical look not only at the federal “cash for clunkers” program, but on similar state-level programs that encourage people to swap out old appliances for new ones.

The lowdown? They’re all great economic programs, but environmentally iffy at best.

For example, the “cash for clunkers”? Why is it limited to new cars? If my budget is tight, why can’t I swap my SUV for a 2-year-old Corolla? Answer: This is an automotive bailout program, at bottom line.

Second, with new appliances, let alone cars, the manufacturing costs aren’t cheap. Fiscally or environmentally.

Third, as the “cash for clunkers” program has allowed people to buy slightly more fuel-efficient new SUVs (and none of the stories so far report how the new sales have broken out by vehicle type), so, state appliance swap-outs have led to people buying ever-bigger refrigerators.

I’m just giving you a summary; read the full piece.

Cash for clunkers 3 – ‘green’ turns ‘un-green’

Here’s the crappiest part about “cash for clunkers,” and what truly exposes it as being an auto bailout sideshow and not an environmental program. The traded-in “clunkers” don’t even get recycled, they get killed instead. Oh, I suppose that some day, you could scrape that liquid glass off and recycle the steel, but right now, what a waste.

Cash for clunkers 2 – did it really make a difference?

The LA Times, quoting an Edmonds analyst, says, “not much.”

Automakers and dealers admit that the program is of marketing value even if cars don’t qualify. (If I were employed right now, I’d see if I could swap my 8-year-old Corolla out on a Prius, to be honest.) But, they also admit that the program brought in people who had money to buy, or almost buy, anyway. The car-buying pool may have been considerably shallowed after this rush.

On cash for clunker sales, it was clearly NOT formerly Big Three vehicles on the sales side of the equation. As for as vehicles bought, four of the top five are Japanese makes. So, any surge in former Big Three sales is due to other reasons, or the “cash for clunkers” as a marketing come-on.

Cash for clunkers 1 – ‘Big Three’ get half of sales

Is the fact that the formerly Big Three auto dealers scored pretty big so far on the cash for clunkers deal, with 47 percent of sales, a reflection that they were creating and selling a lot of the clunkers in the first place?

The trade-in side of the equation really shows the issue. The top 10 “cash for clunker” trade-ins are all formerly Big Three vehicles. As for as vehicles bought, four of the top five are Japanese makes, but three of the four are built either entirely in the U.S. or the U.S./Canada.

As for benefits, then, that means formerly Big Three auto sales were up due to other reasons.

Hybrid costs pay off in long run

With as little as 70,000 miles, hybrid cars can already recoup their initial cost overhead. Clean diesels can do so even more.

The savings come from things like better retained value, not just gas mileage.

So, when oh when will we get what I’ve been begging for — a diesel hybrid? Ford built one as a concept car and has never trotted it out to market.

Larry McMurtry to hang up his spurs?

The author of such sagas as “Terms of Endearment” and “Lonesome Dove,” McMurtry says his latest and 30th novel, “Rhino Ranch,” could be his last.

This is not your father’s Radio Shack?

Radio Shack is trying to rebrand itself as … wait for it … The Shack.

Other than being about as irrelevant to modern electronics as The Shaq is to modern center-playing skills in the NBA, you have to actually have new products and services, if the old ones haven’t been drawing customers.

Unlike the former Federal Express officially becoming FedEx, as an already good company, half of Radio The Shack’s stuff on its wall pegs is already at Wally World, isn’t it?

So, I agree with this:
“Radio Shack is in a desperate battle to remain relevant,” said Drew Neisser, chief executive of Renegade, a New York-based brand marketing agency.

“The name Radio Shack is a quaint artifact in a rapidly evolving marketplace in which mobile devices have become the CE [consumer electronics] portal. Using The Shack as a nickname is a bid to update its image and represent the passion loyalists have for the brand,” he said.

Next — has the TRS-80 been rebranded as the TRS?

Dallas constable hired double-dipping clerk

Thumbs down to Dallas County Constable Derick Evans of Lancaster (whom I know personally). He hired a clerk from Dowdy Ferry Auto Services, an iffy towing and impound company now under state investigation.

Worse? Margarita Trevino still works at her old place, too.

So, why is this so problematic? Evans and one other constable have a contract-free relationship with Dowdy, whose owner has given them multiple campaign contributions.

George Barack Obama at it again on state secrets

Even at the back end of an amicus brief filed by his Justice Department, President George Barack Obama continues his state secrets privilege lust.

Worse, he’s making the claim it’s rooted in the body of the Constitution.

Well, it’s time to remind you folks again to vote Green. I saw this coming with his flip-flop on telco immunity; you have no excuses now.

August 03, 2009

A Sept. 15 Senate Finance health ins deadline, or not?

The Hill first reports that Senate Finance Committee Chairman “Mod Max” Baucus has just such a deadline, but in a separate story, ranking minority member Mike Enzi says it ain’t so.

Douthat gets recession all wrong


Even without this helpful graph from an Ezra Klein column at the WaPost, I knew Russ was full of shit.

First, it’s less red-vs.-blue than he claims, and by far. The California housing bubble is hitting Orange and Riverside counties as badly as anywhere. The same bubble and related problems have heavily red Arizona in almost as bad a pickle as California.

South Carolina, almost as government stingy as Douthat’s favorite child, Texas, is one of the hardest-hit states. And, Texas ain’t all that great, beneath the surface.

Beyond that, Douthat gets Social Security and Medicare wrong.

FDR pushed Social Security not so much because the Depression was waning (it was actually embraced in part because it would buy seniors still working out of jobs and open them up) but because folks like Upton Sinclair and Huey Long wanted that or more.

LBJ and Medicare? Well, yes, he was at the peak of his powers. And acted. Very shortly after getting elected in his own right.

In short, this is Douthat’s worst column since joining the Times.

I was not a total Douthat basher when he first joined the NYT. And, some of his columns have been at least halfway thought-provoking. In other words, I found him usually to be no worse than David Brooks and often a small notch better. But, I am not sure the lower levels of Brooks "bobo" columns touch this level.

Not only was Douthat wrong, he was deliberately wrong, whether out of laziness, stereotypes, ax-grinding, or some combination thereof.

Still seeking Carnival of the Godless submissions

Hit me with your best shot!

Japanese opposition ready for tougher line with US

According to Katsuya Okada, the secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, it’s time for his country to get more assertive vis-à-vis the US.

“It’s like Japan hasn’t had its own diplomacy, or its own opinions,” he said at a briefing. And, that new approach includes redefining the American military presence on Okinawa.

California politicos DID spend beyond inflation

Yes, Prop. 13, and the two-thirds vote to pass a budget, are both California pains in the butt, but, adjusted for inflation, the recent budget deal just cuts per-person spending to where it was 11 years ago.

And, while much of the spending was Democratic-driven, the California GOP has enough blame to accept on the issue.

Biden-Clinton undercutting Obama foreign policy?

Alexander Cockburn argues that recent comments by both in the Middle East and surrounding area are part of deliberate “Israel hawk” stances. But, at the same time, Cockburn argues, after talking about the “disorganized” Obama administration, that “The One” is himself a closet Israel hawk.

That said, Cockburn does this in one of his skirting the edges of anti-Semitism moments.

I do think recent comments by both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on foreign policy in the Middle East have been wrong; I’m not sure about their deliberateness. As for Obama being a “tool” based on sources of campaign contributions or the background of his chief of staff, this is why you have to take him with a grain of salt at times.

The truth behind Obama’s presser ratings

As Howard Kurtz notes (though doesn’t fully dissect) with his “discursive style” comments about President Barack Obama, on page 2 of an in-depth analysis of Obama, network TV, prime-time ratings and presidential press conferences, the truth is that Barack Obama is NOT “that” dynamic of a speaker. This is another Obama myth that I saw through more than a year ago.

I don’t know if some of that mythos is white “liberal” unconscious racism about him sounding “cool,” but in a “white” way, or what.

Janet Reno sells out employees

Here’s a very good story about how Bill Clinton’s attorney general has been on the take, from the time she left office, of the American Arbitration Association, which, among other things, wants to fight employees rights to have access to court over firings and other employment issues.

Google founder leaving Apple board

Apple has finally accepted that, as both companies grow, Google CEO Eric Schmidt simply has too many conflicts of interest to still sit on Apple’s board. Of course, the shutting off of Google apps for the iPhone was the last straw; the “tersely worded” statement indicates this wasn’t the friendliest, or most planned-out, of departures.

Khamenei ‘formally endorses’ Ahmadinejad

Actually, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, formally endorsed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad two months ago, before he was even re-elected, which is what makes this ceremony today such a farce. That, in turn, is why the event was boycotted by was boycotted by two former presidents — Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and many prominent clerics.

Plus, it looks like Khamenei and Ahmadinejad aren’t quite as chummy as they were four years ago.

August 02, 2009

Palin attorney again threatens blogger suit

Gryphen, the interesting, more than sometimes right, sometimes speculative Alaskan blogger, has been threatened with libel papers over his Palin divorce story.

That said, the Alaska Report notes this is the fourth time in a month Thomas Van Flein, Sarah Palin's lawyer, has made such a threat. Never delivered on the previous ones.

That said, if he did deliver on this one, the deposition would sure be fun.

AP fact check on healthcare undercuts ’wingers

More succinctly than the Washington Post’s Ceci Connolly, the AP shoots down not only ’wingers’ “euthanasia” claims but a bunch of other conservative bloviating on national healthcare.

So, if you have any conservative friends, this is the handy-dandy story to send to them.

Obama’s worst Cabinet secretary talks middle-class tax hikes

Treasury Secretary Tim Geither, being impolitic at best, today refused to rule out a future middle-class tax hike. Lemme see.

We’re in the middle of a recession. Obama is trying to get a national healthcare bill passed amid discussions of its cost and wingnut distortions of what it would mean for the middle class, and Geither gets sandbagged into this?

Crowley the quasi-racist cop and other thoughts

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich points out one thing I missed in the stories about Harvard prof Henry Louis Gates being arrested by Cambridge cop James Crowley.

In his police report, Crowley clains 911 caller Lucia Whalen is a racial profiler, saying the two men at Gates’ back door were black. Actually, she said one “looked kind of Hispanic” and she couldn’t tell about the other because she couldn’t see him.

So far, no apology from Crowley to Whalen. Or a general “mea culpa” to the public. So, far, no comments on this part of the situation by the Cambridge PD.

This, in turn, gets back to the meme others have observed in the past few days. In part, if not in large part, this is about police authoritarianism. Now, whether its more about race, as Rich does dot-connecting over conservatives’ berating Obama’s initial response to this issue vs. their own ongoing response to Sonia Sotomayor, or whether police authoritarianism is the primary problem, or it’s something in the middle, I don’t know.

But, the image of James Crowley, constructed both by himself and peers on the Cambridge PD, doesn’t fully square with reality.

WaPost finally covers ’wingers euthanasia scare

Only a couple of weeks late to the scene, the Washington Post and Ms. Healthcare Industry Suck-Up Ceci Connolly finally run a story about the right-wing PR machine’s “government-driven euthanasia” scare story on national healthcare.

That said, it is better than some of her work; she explicitly notes that both the AMA and AARP support such a provision.
“These are important discussions everyone should have when they are healthy and not entering a hospital, so they are fully informed and can make their wishes known,” said association President J. James Rohack. “That’s not controversial; it’s plain, old-fashioned patient-centered care.”

In other words, more obfuscation of the type that gets people to believe Medicare is not a government program.

$100 mil for increasing our gas prices in a recession?

Meet Andrew J. Hall, arguably the king of oil commodities future speculators. It was him and his ilk, in addition to legitimate supply and demand concerns just 12 short months ago, who were probably adding an extra $25/bbl to the price of oil even as we were already officially in a recession and moving deeper into it.

It’s people like him who have caused the recent spike in gas prices, all because Wall Street is less “recessed” than you and I.

Oh, and he wants $100 million from Citigroup for his work, even though Citi got bilions in TARP money from Uncle Sam, aka “you and I.”

That all said, this is now the second time in less than a week that I’ve rhetorically asked why we have no Congressional action on another promise, or quasi-promise, from Obama, to rein in commodities speculators. (That said, that wasn’t just an Obama promise — at the periphery of the bailout table last October, a lot of people were saying we needed this.)