SocraticGadfly: 8/23/09 - 8/30/09

August 29, 2009

Goodbye Dallas

I already said goodbye to the Best Southwest suburbs of Dallas, where I worked for the better part of the last nine years, a day or so ago.

Now, as I prepare to move to Odessa, I say goodbye to the whole Metroplex.

I will miss the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, a lot. I will miss other classical music events in Dallas, like the Fine Arts Chamber Players. I will miss not (yet) having gone to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. I will miss the art galleries of both cities.

I will miss the Dallas Arboretum and White Rock Lake, especially having seen these water lilies among new items at the arboretum.

Or, this one:

I will miss any of a number of Dallas County’s open space parks, including a new one in Wilmer I just discovered Saturday. I will miss Whole Foods Market and Central Market.

I will miss friends, including one of relatively recent meeting, wishing I could have developed more in-person friendship with Mike, and helped further advance our support group venture.

That said, I will not miss the growing traffic jams of the Metroplex, many of which you can hit on Saturdays or Sundays. Knowing that no serious newspaper is likely to take hold in the Best Southwest in the future, nor a full-service PR firm, I won’t totally miss the idea of having to work in a more crowded, congested part of Dallas, or Fort Worth, had I stayed. I won’t miss the more than 6 million people in the area.

And, Odessa does have a little drier air, more breeze, and cooler nights, as well as a semi-Central Market HEB, a small orchestra, a UT branch, and three national parks within 200 miles, among other things.

Onward, I believe.

NO PROOF torture got KSM to ‘fess up’ to truths

Conservatives are already spinning this “new” story about Khalid Sheik Muhammed coughing up all sorts of information under waterboarding torture. But, it ain’t necessarily so.

Here’s the contradicting details.
John L. Helgerson, the former CIA inspector general who investigated the agency's detention and interrogation program, said his work did not put him in "a position to reach definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of particular interrogation methods."

"Certain of the techniques seemed to have little effect, whereas waterboarding and sleep deprivation were the two most powerful techniques and elicited a lot of information," he said in an interview. "But we didn't have the time or resources to do a careful, systematic analysis of the use of particular techniques with particular individuals and independently confirm the quality of the information that came out."

Beyond that, we already know KSM claimed oversight responsibility for particular al-Qaeda actions that he, in fact, did NOT run.

And, in fact, I think this is why top WaPost reporter Walter Pincus only has an end-of-story “tagline” rather than a byline. I think somebody higher up was pushing an angle on this and he demurred at more detailed involvement.

Postal Service change of address no longer free

You "have to" do it online, and you get charged a $1 verification fee.

Hmm, maybe newspapers could steal a trick here?

August 28, 2009

Hutchison – I’m more ‘enlightened’ than Perry; and shows it

Well, that kind of goes without saying in my book, but Texas’ senior U.S. Senator and gubernatorial challenger went ahead and said it about Gov. Rick Perry.

Better yet, she did what President Barack Obama lacks the intestinal fortitude, or cojones, or whatever to do — she called him out on secession and nullification talk:
“Silly rhetoric about secession from the Union being an option is not a good image for Texas, in America or in Texas,” she said.

About time someone in a position to be heard said something like that.

That of itself proves her claim.

Goodbye, Best Southwest

This is along the lines of the farewell column I would have written at Today Newspapers, had we had more than one day’s notice of closing.

Since I have been offered, and accepted, a copy editor’s job with the Odessa American, I will be leaving this area shortly. I will miss some things about the Best Southwest in particular. I will miss more things about Dallas in general, above all, the arts and cultural life. And, I will miss some friends both in the BSW and elsewhere in Dallas.

Right now, though, I will focus on the Best Southwest.

Goodbye, especially political leaders. And, a few parting thoughts.

While Cedar Hill is doing well with attracting retail, and Duncanville is adding a few new stores, retail alone is not the answer for continued economic growth. Nor is a mix of retail plus “traditional” light industrial and offices. Cedar Hill is fortunate enough to have a couple of more upscale office sites, but even that’s not enough.

Think and dream bigger. Medical technology. Anything related to the computer industry. Think outside boxes. Don’t believe you always have to settle for scraps, compared to the rest of Dallas.

That’s what’s happened for too long, as is, whether from daily newspaper coverage, or regional economic development, or other things.

Second, insist on better residential development standards. Too many new houses all around the Metroplex, but especially down here, are energy-leaking big boxes that don’t even look that good. Toughen your building codes to insist on higher minimum insulation standards, thermal windows and other green features. Insist new developments use a minimum percentage of recycled materials. Other cites, suburbs on the other side of the Metroplex do this; why won’t you?

You’ll get quality residents moving into quality homes, because they’re quality homes, not quantity homes. And, if growth slows for a few years, so what? As nature philosopher Ed Abbey said, and has been quoted by me before:

Growth for growth’s sake is the theology of the cancer cell.

Learn to settle political differences both peacefully and honestly, especially in Duncanville. Move beyond the smallness of the bad side of small-town viewpoints.

I’m sorry that Today Newspapers can’t be with you to encourage, push, prod and coax you political and civic leaders toward those goals and ends. I hope, as both a former resident and former Today editor, you move in that direction without needing so much encouraging, pushing, prodding or coaxing, but because you have vision, courage, intuition and a sense of the main chance.

Otherwise, goodbye and good luck.

Irony alert, or more - 'Private' Kennedy memorial service

I got an e-mail invitation from DemocraticMajority to watch tonight's "private" Ted Kennedy memorial service:

Dear ...,

Tonight, we will celebrate Senator Kennedy's life at a memorial service at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

We would like to remember his life in the same way as he lived it: with all of you.

Join us at 7 p.m. on, which will feature a live video stream of the service.

Now, it can't be "private" if you're streaming it like this now, can it?

And, while it may be dignified in general, I don't doubt that a fundraising appeal or something will be attached to it somewhere.

Our little boxes of life

Thinking about moving, going to a new job, but within the same career path, my post on David Brooks’ new column about America’s “advantages” over other Western countries having its price, and, lo and behold, an e-mail from a friend sums this up well. From that e-mail …

Not my poem, but the song that used to intro the HBO series “Weeds.” Malvina Reynolds wrote it in 1962:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

YouTube link here.

The four reasons Obama has flopped on the “public option”

Salon has a great article on this; not just on the pubilc option but larger healthcare reform, and Obama's stumbles and worse to date.

NOT so stunningly for those of us who saw through his alleged, and yes, I say alleged, rhetorical skills, Obama the former college prof, as one of the four flop reasons, failed to articulate what his plan was about. (Of course, that’s because he refused to take leadership and ownership of the plan early on, instead leaving that to multiple Congressional committees, which is another of the four faults.)

While we remember Ted Kennedy – Watergate!

No, Richard Nixon didn’t commit vehicular manslaughter. But, besides spying on Ted Kennedy illegally, as well as millions of other Americans, he nearly started World War III while drunk, prevented only by the presence and intervention of Henry Kissinger.

In this case, Nixon even offered Secret Service protection after George Wallace was shot not just to protect him but to spy on him.

I don’t want to commemorate Teddy to the point of hagiography. But, I don’t want to see him torn down purely for the sake of being torn down for political reasons.

Five banks hold half of US mortgages

Among the bigger long-term fallout of lack of regulation, Federal Reserve encouragement of bubble inflation, then the resultant financial sector bailout, this is among the biggest.

After the economy picks back up, it means that these five banks, without new financial regulation, can work to try to manipulate not just loans but other financial matters. Yes, the FDIC and its head, Sheila Bair, are worried. But, what about other federal agencies and financial leaders, other than Richard Fisher of the Dallas Fed, who would have been a great pick to replace Ben Bernanke? She’s been kind of an outlier on a lot of her concerns in the past 12-18 months.

And, for this in-depth story, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America declined to comment. They know they got Gravy Train instead of the doghouse a year ago. And that, other than the credit card bill that passed earlier this year, they’ve been asked to do no sacrifice.

No wonder about part of the town-hall anger. And, President Obama, the man who got so much campaign money from Goldman Sachs that he opted out of public financing for his election? I don’t think that he “cannot” get the anger. Rather, his soul’s now in hock to the devil. You will notice new financial regulation legislation is not on the fastest track, either.

And, that, folks, is part of why I didn’t vote for the man, and why I often distrust both sides of the two-party duopoly.

The flip side of American “success” – stress

Near the end of a column about Ted Kennedy, and his successes as an “incrementalist,” David Brooks talks about success in the American economy — and its downsides
The American economy is flexible and productive. America’s G.D.P. per capita is nearly 50 percent higher than France’s. But the American system is also unforgiving. It produces its share of insecurity and misery. …

We Americans work longer hours than any other people on earth. We switch jobs much more frequently than Western Europeans or the Japanese. We have high marriage rates and high divorce rates. We move more, volunteer more and murder each other more.

Yet, the hypercompetitiveness of American society — including a self-defined competition with “old Europe” on only the first two sentences I quote from Brooks, bolstered by either Social Darwinism (if not explicitly defined as such) or a conservative Christian “success theology” or “prosperity gospel,” ignores the third sentence and the next paragraph.

The third sentence is, rather, seen as a mark of inferiority, or sinfulness/lack of faith, depending on whether Social Darwinism or prosperity gospel is involved. And, the second paragraph, with the exception of volunteerism, is simply accepted as a “price one pays.”

When it doesn’t have to be.

Kay Bailey Hutchison – charity skinflint

The Texas U.S. Senator and gubernatorial candidate, with her husband, has given less than 1 percent of income to charity in the past five years.

That said, incumbent Rick Perry ain’t tremendously better.

And both, like many well-to-do, fall below the national average.

About this blog

First, more regular readers and visitors will note a few changes here, and may even note an organizing theme behind those changes. More on that later.

So, this new “about” post, to be bumped up to the top of the page on a semi-regular basis, replaces some of that.

This blog is NOT just about politics. Nor is it just about politics and non- or anti-theism. (More of that used to be on another blog, and some of it, especially that has less political connection and is more philosophical in nature, will go back there.)

Nor is it about a stereotypical liberal stance. (And certainly not about a stereotypical Democratic stance.) Put the word “skeptical” in there.

Even in the semi-political realms, it goes beyond the US to comment on internal politics of other countries from time to time, whether or not that will directly impact America or not.

It has a fair amount of observations on psychology and philosophy. It comments on new findings in the natural sciences from time to time. It has nature and environmental posts, beyond ones with political connotations.

It’s also about sports, in a little bit, cultural affairs, in a little bit.

And, it has some elements of deliberate contrarian stances.

That said, this blog is primary political. But, it’s not a Democratic blog.

In fact, it criticizes Democrats as well as Republicans when they aren’t the “reality-based community” they claim to be. And, though I voted Green in the last two presidential elections, that party is not immune from critique, too, especially for many of its members holding on to conspiracy theories, above all in the range of alt-medicine and outright pseudomedicine, with the hypocrisy of admonishing the Bush Administration for not following the science on global warming, even as its rejects the scientific disproval of much of its pseudomedicine and alt-medicine beliefs.

Beyond that observation on how my political comments are generally tempered by being “reality-based,” it tries to maintain an open-minded, yet healthy, skepticism in general.

That includes admitting mistakes, while still maintaining skepticism. Take Sarah Palin’s birth of Trig. These pages long ago retreated from the idea that Trig was somebody else’s child, while still noting that Sarah’s prenatal actions, especially her flight to Dallas then back to Alaska at the end of the pregnancy naturally invites skepticism.

Anyway, in all the areas above, except sports and leisure, it’s about getting people to think.

August 27, 2009

Hey, pastor, where’s Romans 8?

The pastor of the Arizona man who brought multiple weapons to a town hall there prayed for the death of President Obama at a church service before then.

Pastor Steven Anderson said he was going to “pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.”

I believe Romans 8 says:
Submit unto the governing authorities, for they have been ordained by God.

And Paul was writing that while under the rule of Nero Ceasar, not the democratically elected President Barack Obama.

And, no, he didn't follow that with a paragraph about praying for Nero's death while still "submitting."

Now, are all conservative evangelicals like this? Or even all fundamentalists? No. But is Anderson a lone wolf, an outlier? I highly doubt it.

So, people on the Talking Points Memo thread who claim people are fleeing churches like this are... well, wrong! Many people, especially in down economic times, flock to absolutist messages.

Note to conservatives on Ted Kennedy's drinking... "W"!

Just think...

By the time George Wingnut Bush is dead, we can pull up all the similar stuff about HIS drinking history... much of it not yet written, but eventually to be dug up or leaked out.

We can even pull up his alleged cocaine use, which will surely be documented by then.

No, he may never have been involved in someone's death. But, we have had rumors of a girlfriend's abortion from that general time period.

Roubini: Washington must manage perceptions

Iconoclastic economist Nouriel Roubini says that is the key issue in walking a tightrope between continued recession, with even deflation worries, and inflation.

Did the Obama stimulus work? Old Scots verdict – ‘not determined’

Contra Christina Romer of Team Obama, the best answer right now is, “we don’t know,” because two-thirds of the stimulus money has yet to be paid out.

No, I can’t prove that the stimulus was back-loaded enough to help more next year, down the pike toward midterm Congressional elections. That said, not all of Reagan’s original tax cut hit in 1981; it had more effect next year, though not enough to help Congressional Republicans.

Politics aside, we will see, by how quickly the country pulls out of recession next year, just how well the stimulus worked.

Dingell admits Cash4Clunkers was stimulus, not enviro plan

That’s one of several takeaways from a wrap on sales from the “cash for clunkers” program.

Another one? As a stimulus, it actually helped the Japanese Big Three more than the American one.

What happened during Katrina at NOLA hospital? Euthanasia?

The New York Times Magazine has an in-depth look at whether or not several critically ill patients were euthanized at Memorial Medical Center.

I think they were, but in situations that none of us can fully imagine. The best solution, in my opinion, would have been for the Orleans Parish grand jury to true-bill, rather than no-bill, several of the key decision-makers, then offer deferred adjudication in exchange for surrender of medical licenses. Perhaps not permanent surrender, but, maybe for a couple of years.

That said, the detailed story notes that more than four years later, and more than a year after Hurricane Ike hitting Galveston Island, the medical profession still lacks more specific directives for how to handle such a disaster.

August 26, 2009

“Audrey,” Palin’s Deceptions blogger, IDed?

Update, Aug. 26: Well, apparently “the other McCain” has a more definite ID on “Audrey,” the creator of the Palin's Deceptions blog and website.

Her first name is Anne, but the last name is not longer Baggs. And, she has apparently published some more salacious stuff besides her circumcision book, which ties together loose ends on previous posts of R.S. McCain.

It all seems to fit that she is really Anne Briggs. (Minor corroboration from “Audrey’s” blog, Palin’s Deceptions – both she and Anne have four kids.

Hat tip to “the other McCain” on this. And, yes, I can and do give hat tips to conservative bloggers on occasion. Rational thought and analysis is what it is, where it is.

That said, I had seen “Audrey’s” Zimbro profile some time ago, while doing a bit of noodling-level research on this, as I blogged way back in January. So, I hadn’t done the full 2+2 addition, but, I have read enough to believe that R.S. McCain is on the right track here. (And, I do not know if he cribbed off me, but, a return hat tip would be appreciated.

Anyway, “Audrey’s” Huffington Post profile also indicates that.

And, that said, I am sorry I ever went down this road in the first place. But, given the weird circumstances of Trig's birth, still unexplained by his child-endangering mom, it is understandable why many people would rush to fill in the blank.

I again repeat the idea I saw on another blog, from Alaska: Whether consciously or not, it was a "passive abortion" effort by Palin to fly to Dallas as she did.

Ted Kennedy – some inaccuracies in NYT obit

Oh page 6 of the New York Times obituary of Ted Kennedy, John Broder has a few inaccuracies, primarily of timeline implications.
Freed at last of the expectation that he should and would seek the White House, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself fully to his day job in the Senate. He led the fight for the 18-year-old vote, the abolition of the draft, deregulation of the airline and trucking industries, and the post-Watergate campaign finance legislation. He was deeply involved in renewals of the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing law of 1968. He helped establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He built federal support for community health care centers, increased cancer research financing and helped create the Meals on Wheels program. He was a major proponent of a health and nutrition program for pregnant women and infants.

But, as the obit notes itself in preceding paragraphs, Ted wasn’t “freed” until after losing his one official attempt at the White House in 1980. And, 18-year-old votes? 1972. End of the draft? 1973. Airline dereg? Carter Administration. The Voting Rights Act? 1968, as noted. WIC? Not sure when, but well before 1980. OSHA? Nixon years.

I mean, he did plenty AFTER 1980, some of which is mentioned in paragraphs after the one cited above. But, not only were those accomplishments before 1980, Ted was one of many in the Senate, not a leading pusher, on them.

Illegal aliens, hard work – think milk

Why? Especially in Western states, illegal aliens can be found in dairy farms, especially the Big Ag ones, and not just truck farming or other horticultural agriculture.

In fact, in the West, more than half of the employees at today's dairies are illegals. And, arguably, they are even more exploited there than at places like California strawberry or lettuce farms.

Fortunately, I don't buy mass-market cheeses for other reasons; this is one more.

More on this situation here, on the bare numbers, here, on the attempt by Big Ag dairymen to get their workers legalized (NO, unless better agricultural work safety rules are adopted – and enforced) and here, on dairy farming price pressures. The second article, in a segue to the third, asks what the price point will be for dairymen to turn more toward technology, rather than labor, for more of their work needs.

Solar powered development for West Texas? Please, yes

In recent years, Texas had added plenty of wind power to the state’s energy resources, in the high hills west and southwest of Abilene and beyond.

What I don’t get, though, is why areas further west in Texas aren’t getting in on the solar energy push, whether the photovoltaic panels type, or the newer solar heat for steam for electric turbines type.

The Permian Basin and west and southwest into the Chihuahuan Desert are prime for this.

Take Odessa, the heart of Permian Basin oil country, and where I will be moving soon to start a position at the daily paper there.

The city, through things such as becoming a Texas certified retirement community, has been working to diversify its economy. I’m sure it would like to do more of that.

Well, with more than 80 percent sunshine in the summer, and 65 percent even in January, it’s well-positioned for that climatically.

Not only does it fit well with growing the area’s economy, it also fits with the call for regional diversification on alternative energy sources being promoted by David Crane, president and chief executive of NRG Energy.

I don’t know what graduate engineering programs The University of Texas-Permian Basin offers, but, surely, at least some aspects of petroleum-related mechanical engineering, on the design and such of larger structures, would be transferrable to solar sites.

The only potential drawback, versus the Desert Southwest, is the lack of public land in Texas. On the other hand, somebody let those windjammers get build on their private land west of Abilene. I’m sure ranchers living at the edge would be open to talks, if they have big enough spreads, on solar power.

Finally, looking ahead at a certain Texas election next year, the first gubernatorial candidate to jump on this idea might just have an angle on rounding up some votes.

How could healthcare reform affect Native Americans

Over at High Country News, Mark Trahant, former editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, says, inside Congress and the Obama Administration, nobody’s really discussing that, namely, how this could affect the Indian Health Service, the federal governments treaty obligation to many tribes as “nations,” and more.

Southwest Airlines faces more FAA investigation

The Federal Aviation Administration now wants to know if Southwest is using unauthorized parts for maintenance of its 737-300s. Southwest says it’s just a documentation issue, not “unauthorized” parts.

It had better hope that’s all it is.

The FAA agreed to knock almost $3 million off a $10.2 million fine earlier this year — a fine for maintenance violations. If this is more than paperwork, the consent agreement on the fine reduction would be null and void.

House Dems Blue Dog recruiting comes home to roost

Not every Blue Dog in the House may be forthright about wanting to dump Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, like Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith, but I bet at least a dozen feel that way in private.

Having a majority that will not band together like a majority is not really a majority.

Do I hear a petard being cranked up for hoisting use?

Dallas Federal Reserve chief says recession is over

Yeah, right. Not in either the technical sense, of the economy growing again, or in the psychological sense, is Richard W. Fisher right, at least at this moment.

First, we have to wait until September to see if the economy had third-quarter growth. With “just” a 1 percent downturn in the second quarter, we may see positive numbers for the third quarter. Or, we may not.

But, until I see a full quarter of employment growth — INCLUDING the real unemployment numbers and discouraged workers — I know the non-financial, real recession still isn’t over.

August 25, 2009

What person and money is behind Palin Deception blog and website?

Edited and updated, Aug. 25

Audrey is from ... Charlottesville, Va. Thanks to an e-mail tipster.

Audrey has a profile on Zimbio, and has been posting copies of Palin's Deception blog info since September, apparently.

Why she has no problem posting her city of residence there, and not on her blog or her website, I don't know.

Her profile says:
I am a childbirth educator and midwife's assistant.

My emphasis on the last word. Midwife's assistant, not midwife.

Brief Googling only shows three hits on the phrase "how to become a midwife's assistant." And, it appears there's not much in the way of certification; a week or two of classes. As for "lactation consultant," from her own website, teenage-level jokes aside, I have no idea what that is.

Anyway, this probably explains why I couldn't find her when I just did a Google search before. If she has no professional-level certifications, she's going to be less likely to pop up on a Google search that is based in part on professional background.

That said, it means we should take with a grain of salt her claims to be published, without knowing what she's had published and where.

Aug. 25 update:

Of course I couldn't find her on Amazon. That's not her real name.

It all seems to fit that she is really Anne Briggs. (Minor corroboration from “Audrey’s” blog, Palin’s Deceptions– both she and Anne have four kids.

Hat tip to “the other McCain” on this. And, yes, I can and do give hat tips to conservative bloggers on occasion. Rational thought and analysis is what it is, where it is. Of course, if he cribbed off me, on this original post,a return hat tip would be appreciated.

Anyway, Audrey’s Huffington Post profile also indicates that.


At Palin Deception (now dead) and its accompanying blog, Audrey has for some time continued to push a number of issues related to Sarah Palin’s alleged pregnancy with Trig, and now, to a lesser extent, about Bristol’s alleged pregnancy with Tripp.

That said, a new post by Audrey on her blog Jan. 6, about possible Photoshopping of a couple of Sarah Palin pics, brought something that’s been floating in the back of my mind for several weeks to the front.

Here’s the exact comment from that blog post that did it:
Andrea Gusty [from CBS 11 in Anchorage] told that the picture was legitimate. According to, she also provided them with a higher resolution version of the photo, though has never released it; the version on their website is actually LOWER resolution than the one on Flickr. She also told one of my research assistants that the photo was taken on April 13th and that is how Palin looked on that day.

OK, so Audrey has not just A research assistant, but assistantS in the plural.

I’m assuming Audrey is not paying them out of her own wallet. I’m also assuming they’re not working gratis, either out of the goodness of their hearts or because they’re that concerned about the lies of Sarah Palin.

How many research assistants does Audrey have, and who’s paying for them?

She says, and two of them say, they are indeed doing it out of the goodness of their own heart. One of them was enough of a "groupie" (interpret that however you will) to attempt to lay some serious snark on me, or something, in comments, to which I replied where in North Carolina he could stick it.

And, where’s Audrey from herself?

She has e-mailed back, on a few questions I asked her, with some information moderately more in depth on some issues.

She is NOT, and I accept her word, the "Audrey T." who is the top-published author of childbirth-related books on Amazon. Here's what I first posted —

Per her main site, not the blog:
My husband and I are not "left wing bloggers," "conspiracy theorists," or otherwise fruitcakes. I am a childbirth labor coach, a published author in the childbirth field, and a lactation consultant; my husband is a physician who has, until this election, always voted Republican. So we're hardly coming from left field.

Well, I looked for “Audrey” + “childbirth” at Amazon. About half a dozen “Audreys” came up, but the one that most fit the bill?

“Audrey T.. .” From North Carolina. Judging by comments on one blog, evangelical Christian or Messianic Jewish.

OK, wrong Audrey. The actual Audrey has a right to remain anonymous.

Of course, that's part of why she can't/won't accept PayPal donations.

In a post of a couple of days ago, Audrey says she's paying for this on her own dime.

Well, kind of, sort of, if her bio is true. It's probably actually her physician hubby's dime, not hers, unless writing a couple of childbirth books and serving as a childbirth coach pays a whole bunch more money than I imagine it does. I'll stand by that, since she's not the top childbirth author on Amazon, that money for website, and other things, may not be all her own but her physician husband's.

Next, she says she doesn't want to accept PayPal donations from readers because she wants to "keep things 'cleaner.'" Well, yes, and keep from having to report details of who she is, etc., to reader-investors. Ditto on why she thinks no book will come out of this.

She then comments on why she wouldn't lay out to hire a PI:
Just as an aside, on the question of a private investigator: Obviously, hiring such an individual would be an enormously expensive task. I think all would agree that a local "man" could not be used, since, while I am sure anyone who was asked would protest that they were "fair, balanced, and unbiased," anyone from the local area could potentially have strong feelings about Gov. Palin (either pro OR con). Even if the person WAS completely unbiased, no one would ever believe that, and I think results would basically be worthless to the public at large.

She then says hiring a PI from outside Alaska would be too expensive, which gets back to the PayPal issue.

BUT... a PI from outside Alaska who knew enough about the Sarah Palin story to be up to speed right away, not just up to speed on John/Jane Doe level, but up to speed on where Audrey was at, couldn't approach the case without bias. Even more so for a non-Alaska PI whom she would bring up to speed.

Otherwise, I'll accept her at her word that she's that "fixated" (my actual word, not hers) on how the mainstream media don't get birthing details right, and that's what prompted her to jump in. For being as apolitical as she presents herself, I would say it is a fixation. (No, research assistant Morgan, don't try to play verbal judo on me by claiming this post shows I'm fixated about who she is. First, you shouldn't play with matches, or get in a battle where you're logically under-armed. Second, this is the last post I'm likely to write about Audrey, so I'm not fixated on the subject anyway.

Back to some of her fans asking if a book could come of it.

First, this isn't AA's "Big Book." Publishers don't do "anonymous," unless it's a CIA agent or similar.

Second, the only way to have enough material — and enough insight — for a book is either to get very lucky on some Alaskan spilling the beans, or else pulling the trigger on hiring that PI.

That said, there is one person on this case who has all the right qualifications —
• Professional journalist, with research/PI money at least potentially available;
• High name recognition to throw around journalistic weight if necessary;
• Lack of fear of either Sarah Palin or controversial issues in general.

And that, of course, is Andrew Sullivan.

So, I have e-mailed him:
"Have you ever thought about going beyond blogging, and either for the Atlantic, or on your own, actually doing an investigative story on her background, above all the Trig Palin birth questions?"

We shall see. (Haven't gotten a return e-mail from Sully!)

Brief update, Jan. 11:Audrey shot me an e-mail after I posted a link to this post in comments on the blog post of hers referenced above. She's e-mailed me once or twice before, but I had never kept them. This time, I noticed that she was the last initial, or maybe middle initial, of W. on her e-mail name. Well, under "Audrey" +
"childbirth" at Amazon, only one book by an author whose last name begins with a "W" and nothing by ANY "Audrey" using "lactation" instead of childbirth.

So, on the money issue, as to money being spent now, I'm still skeptical, at least, that it's hers rather than her husbands.

And, I just had a lightbulb moment, failing to check Whois until now. Here's the domain name registration info:
Registration Service Provided By: NEARLYFREESPEECH.NET
Contact: +1.8887414678
Website: https://www.NearlyFreeSpeech.NET/


c/o RespectMyPrivacy, LLC Domain Administrator (
1892 US HIGHWAY 1 #152
Tel. +1.8664570078
Fax. +1.8663909061

Creation Date: 14-Sep-2008
Expiration Date: 14-Sep-2009

Domain servers in listed order:

Administrative Contact:
c/o RespectMyPrivacy, LLC Domain Administrator (
1892 US HIGHWAY 1 #152
Tel. +1.8664570078
Fax. +1.8663909061

Technical Contact:
c/o RespectMyPrivacy, LLC Domain Administrator (
1892 US HIGHWAY 1 #152
Tel. +1.8664570078
Fax. +1.8663909061

Not a lot more light there, though. is a proxy hosting service designed to do what its name indicates. appears to have some association with it, and indeed is run out of the next-door suite in the same strip mall, office building or whatever the physical site is.

As for names, it can't be Audrey N., who has a middle initial listed on some Google hits under Audrey + "labor coach" or "lactation consultant," and that initial isn't "W." Anyway, she's also an MD, and Audrey doesn't make that claim for herself. There is an Audrey P. in Miami, but whether the Rockledge location (due east of Tampa, across the peninsula) for the proxy web host has any relevance or not, I'm not sure. Nor do I know if W. is her middle initial. Or, there's an "Audrey W." by middle initial in St. Louis, but she's also an MD. And, not a published author in trade books, though perhaps in the professional literature.

Well, I can't offer you more for now. But, if I find more, I will proffer it.

400 years of Galileo eyeing the skies

Now honored by Google (via Bora’s blog at Science Blogs).

Go out and look at some skies tonight!

Maliki doing Clintonesque “triangulation”?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to be listening to some US advisors and expanding his political base.

Question is, can distancing himself from some “harder-core” Shi’ite parties position his Dawa to attract more secular Iraqis of both Shi’a and Sunni persuasions, as well as pick off a few Kurds in the north, too?

Even for temp jobs, why don’t feds offer health insurance?

They don’t, or at least, the Census Bureau doesn’t.

Obama still liked better than Cong GOP on deficit

Yes, the expanding deficit is something to worry about. As for who’s equipped to handle it, right now, the general public clearly gives the nod to President Obama, not the GOP. Last month, he was favored by 54-35 percent over the Republicans in Congress.

That said, nobody sees anything equivalent to Bill Clinton’s high-tech explosion luck-in of the 1990s providing the same post-recessionary boost.

PTSD now diagnosed in parents of some early-preemie babies

The stresses of earlier-term premature babies spending weeks in neonatal ICUs appears to cause post-traumatic stress disorder in at least some parents. The story details all the signs, and notes that hospitals need to see them, to be supportive.

Richard Cohen agrees on Obama as Jimmy Carter II

I’ve been saying this for a few weeks now; finally, a “mainstream” columnist is picking up on the idea.

Cohen focuses on the two big-ticket ideas of national healthcare and Afghanistan. The nutgraf is at the end:
Unlike Carter, Obama brims with energy and charm. His brilliance is not brittle but supple. Yet, another teachable moment is upon him and he seems lost. The country needs health-care reform and success in Afghanistan, and both efforts are going in the wrong direction. The message needs to be fixed, and so, with some tough introspection, does the man.

Agreed. Agreed. And, again, I saw this as part of his problem more than a year ago.

Radical liberal activist indicted for threats

Activism of this kind is no more welcome from “liberals” than from “conservatives.”

Katyanne Marie Kibby stands accused of threatening former fellow activist Brandon Darby, who became a government informant over allegations an Austin activist group planned to disrupt the 2008 Republican National Convention with things such as Molotov cocktails. Kibby allegedly threatened Darby after his role was revealed.

Anti-Peak Oiler expects $30/bbl oil – hah!

I will eat Mark Lynch’s hat if he is even close to right on this prediction.

Even if your less pessimistic about a nearer-term peak than someone like Matthew Simmons, the idea that oil will fall to $30/bbl, even if you get speculators further removed from the business, is laughable.

Especially since Lynch is counting on more pricey oil shales, not economically viable at $30, to be part of that price reducer, his postulate is simply ridiculous. As are other details he cites in favor, such as pooh-pooh-ing worries over the water "cut" in Saudi wells.

If West Texas Intermediate gets close to, let alone above, $100/bbl in the next 14 months, though, the lack of current Congressional action and Presidential push on commodities speculation regulation will become more glaring, and we will get a bipartisan push for a Band-Aid.

August 24, 2009

The consolations of religion?

Unlike many people of atheistic or nontheistic bent, I don't deny that religious belief has real, measurable psychological benefits. And, some of those may — or may not — spill over into physical health, too.

Those benefits aren't for me, though. Intellectually, I certainly can't undo the path I've trod. And emotionally, the same afflictions of this life that drive many religious people closer into that psychology, with its benefits for them, are the afflictions of long years of life that led me to a decision that had elements of emotion at the time I made it and has become more strongly emotional since then.

Beyond that, as long as your religious belief doesn't infringe my civil liberties, or those of other people (especially as a class), believe what you want. And, if it offers you consolation, I won't try to argue that away from you.

Another great argument for US parliamentary government

It’s the glacial pace of getting presidential appointments through Senate confirmation. Of course, Obama has some self-blame on tax issues there with some folks!

Seriously, though, things like this, the semi-undemocratic Senate, the corruption of unregulated Congressional campaign finance, short House terms and the “permanent campaign” may all be contributory to the waning of the American imperium.

No, Obama does NOT have hard A-stan choice

Contra the story about US military issues in Afghanistan, there’s an easy one.

Redefine “victory” after the runoff round of the Afghan presidential election. Accept that many Afghans in the military are still unenthusiastic about fighting the Taliban. (Blame Bush for not sending enough troops in the first place, if you want.)

Then, meet the benchmarks for the redefined victory and get the hell out!

August 23, 2009

Get rid of newspaper websites

As it becomes clear that an ad-only model CANNOT, repeat CANNOT, “monetize” online newspapers, either today, tomorrow or five years from now, more small- and midsized dailies are doing the smart thing, and either pricing subscription paywalls higher than their dead-trees versions, or else simply junking much or all of their online content and presence.

Among the reasons American Journalism Review touts this idea, this one stands out:
•Eliminating Web offerings would save precious dollars now being spent on a product that does little more than undercut the printed paper. Even smaller papers are devoting a growing share of their limited newsroom budgets to Web-only content. The cost is substantial, and growing, at larger metropolitan papers, which for years have been pouring resources into new Web features (video, search, Twitter feeds, blogs, etc.) without seeing much financial reward for their efforts. Question: How deep does the hole have to get before publishers stop digging? Another question: What would happen if those same resources were focused exclusively on producing a first-class newspaper?

Skeptic Alan Mutter, a former publisher, doubts newspapers can coordinate that much… even though he proposes… irony alert… a “universal subscription” to all participating online papers on his own blog. Moron.

Maybe, if smaller dailies like the Newport Daily News just take the lead as AJR documents, others will follow.

Lieberman a symbol of what’s wrong with Dems

And more.

Letting him caucus with him while slavering after a cloture-proof majority they probably couldn’t get with two more Senate Democrats. Not enough party discipline. The corrosive and corrupting influences of campaign cash on a semi-undemocratic body.

Result? Joementum can kick the party in the teeth again, and now on national healthcare, not even on nutbar neocon foreign policy, and surely get away with it again.

Roubini warns on double-dip and speculators

Nouriel Roubini warns a double-dip recession is possible, and also warns that commodities speculators are getting out of hand.

The second warning certainly applies to the US above all, followed by the UK. Ditto, I believe, on the first count. Germany and France are already out of recession; China appears to be headed that way.

Twould be funny indeed (ignoring the suffering value), if “old ‘socialistic’ Europe” recovered faster than the US or UK, the most hypercapitalist western nations.

Tom Daschle behind health ins co-ops

That is, Obama’s one-time choice to be Health and Human Services Secretary, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, has been a big pusher for health insurance co-ops instead of a public option for health insurance. Like Byron Dorgan, Mod Max Baucus, etc., Daschle’s long history of small-state senator buyouts from the healthcare industry shines through.

It also, as critics note, shows the lies behind Preznit Kumbaya’s pledges to “change Washington,” etc.

More stupidity from Robert Wright

The author of “The Evolution of God,” a banal and inaccurate attempt to harness the one-trick pony of “Nonzero,” is engaged in more of the same type of blathering on the NYTimes op-ed page.

This time, he’s trying to get atheists and theists to Kumbaya on evolution.

As in the book, in the column he promotes evolutionary “progress,” this time connecting it with convergence.

Here’s the kicker:
And, god-talk aside, these atheist biologists could try to appreciate something they still seem not to get: talk of “higher purpose” is not just compatible with science, but engrained in it.


Once again, I do not get what nontheists see in Wright.

Another moronic Morning News op-ed

This one courtesy of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Steven Malenga, senior editor there, after a passing reference to the “Gordon Gekkos,” of course says that people on the economic edges as to blame for not having a work ethic.

What an effing maroon. What about the “employer ethic”? He mentions “Gordon Gekkos” in passing but never chides them, especially for all the ways THEY, not the people at the edges, suck off the government teat.

And, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” was based on the “wind up the clocklike world” divinity of Enlightenment Deism, an absurdity disproven by two world wars, atomic weapons, the Holocaust and quantum mechanics.