January 22, 2011

Olbermann WANTED OUT from MSNBC

OK, liberal, but not-too-liberal, folks, since that's where Keith Olbermann himself falls on the political spectrum, let's put the political conspiracy theories on hold.

Per a New York Times media article,t the Keithster and MSNBC had been looking to part ways long before the Comcast takeover.
For the last several weeks, Mr. Olbermann and the network have been in negotiations to end his successful run on MSNBC, according to executives involved in the talks who requested anonymity because the talks were confidential. The deal was completed on Friday, and Mr. Olbermann made the announcement on his final “Countdown” hours later.

Friday’s separation agreement between MSNBC and Mr. Olbermann includes restrictions on when he can next lead a television show and when he can give interviews about the decision to end his association with the news channel.

The executives involved in the discussions confirmed that the deal carries limitations for Mr. Olbermann in terms of when he can next work on television, though he will be able to take a job in radio or on any forum on the Internet. The deal also prohibits the host from commenting publicly on the deal, the executives confirmed.

So, let's stop the political conspiracy theories. More of why?
One executive, who asked not to be identified because Comcast had instructed employees not to speak about the situation, said the company dreaded the prospect of being blamed if Mr. Olbermann were to quit soon after the takeover.

Now, if Rachel Maddow leaves within in the next 12 months, then yes, start them up.

That's not to say the Comcast takeover still isn't fraught with issues.

Tiger Woods could fall to No. 3!!!

Been a while since this happened, but, if Martin Kaymer wins in Dubai tomorrow, he vaults past Tiger into No. 2 in the world rankings behind Lee Westwood. Given that he has a five-shot lead after three rounds, the tournament is his for the taking.

And, since Westwood is 19 shots off the pace, his reign as No. 1 may not last too long.

Phil Mickelson? Almost as far back as Westwood.

Update: It's official, as Kaymer smokes the field for an eight-shot win. It seriously would not at all surprise me for him to hit No. ! by the time of the U.S. Open. Philly Mick falls from T-4 to 5 and pooh-poohs it, talking about majors. Well, Phil, outside the Masters ,you have sucked, by and large, and you fade at the end of seasons anyway.

Also, I think McElroy's second place may have him in the world top 10 now.

David Dewhurst a RINO?

Only amongst folks like Texas tea partiers could wingnut-flirting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst be called a Republican In Name Only. If you want political paranoia about a man who's the front-runner to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison, give this AP analysis a read.

January 21, 2011

Olbermann OUT at MSNBC

Brash, allegedly lberal TV talk show host Keith Olbermann is out the door at MSNBC, just after the ink dried on the FCC's approval of Comcast taking over the NBC stable.

It's not clear if the move is related to his politics or not. Chris O'Donnell, more pleasantish, gets his time slot while Ed Schultz falls to 10 p.m. Eastern. But, that means Cent Uygur, father Young Turk, and some actually more liberal than Keith, moves into prime time.

So, if Comcast did do this for political reasons, it doesn't fully know what it's doing.

That said, there may be other reasons.

Uygur is younger than either Olbermann or Schultz.

Despite some people thinking this stinks to high heaven, several points I offer:
1. This probably was a mutual deal, unless Comcast has an incredibly tin ear. That said, if if was mutual, it still has a pretty tin ear on timing, and Olbermann's going to let it take the fall.
2. Ever since Olbermann got the political donation hand-slap, I'm sure he's been looking. My prediction? A talk show. NOT a political talk show. A talk show of the Letterman variety, but more newsy.
3. Not only was Olbermann not always all that liberal, he had some big issues at times. Like Hillary hating, for example.

Update: In a good overview of Olbermann's time at MSNBC, Steve Kornacki reminds us that his crash-and-burn style of dealing with bosses and others has nothing to do with politics in the political sense and in fact traces back to his days at ESPN. Salon also offers a montage of a few of his best clips>

Update : And, Keith now has a Facebook page to get him back on the airwaves. Contra FiredogLake, though, this does NOT mean he was forced out, or, at least not for political reasons. FDL linked to a New York Times media article which points out that the Keithster and MSNBC had been looking to part ways long before the Comcast takeover.
For the last several weeks, Mr. Olbermann and the network have been in negotiations to end his successful run on MSNBC, according to executives involved in the talks who requested anonymity because the talks were confidential. The deal was completed on Friday, and Mr. Olbermann made the announcement on his final “Countdown” hours later.

Friday’s separation agreement between MSNBC and Mr. Olbermann includes restrictions on when he can next lead a television show and when he can give interviews about the decision to end his association with the news channel.

The executives involved in the discussions confirmed that the deal carries limitations for Mr. Olbermann in terms of when he can next work on television, though he will be able to take a job in radio or on any forum on the Internet. The deal also prohibits the host from commenting publicly on the deal, the executives confirmed.

So, let's stop the political conspiracy theories.

Now, if Rachel Maddow leaves within in the next 12 months, then yes, start them up.

Dumbass Obama quote of the day

President Barack Obama has named GE's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, to a new presidential council on competitiveness and job creation.

Ignoring the question of why we need another presidential council, other than to distance Obama from criticism, etc. and, this is the way of Obama, here's your dumbass quote:

Obama: "GE is not part of the usual Washington crowd." Really? An establishment member of the military-industrial complex, maker of military jet engines and more, is "not part of of the usual Washington crowd"? Boy, the whoppers get more blatant, and shift more to the "right," all the time.

Much more on Immelt and liberal/non-Villager blog reaction to this nuttery from Tobin Harshaw.

The not-so-good Gulf War

A good story on Salon notes that Bush 41 kind of set us up for Bush 43, even though he opposed trying to occupy Iraq.

1. His Hitlerization of Saddam Hussein.
2. His cut-and-run with the Kurds (mentioned) and the Shi'ites (not mentioned).

Those are just two biggies. There's many other bits and pieces of fallout, including how easy it made war look and more.

There's still two other big questions that overhang that war.

1. Just what did April Glaspie tell Hussein shortly before we invaded Kuwait? Short of her telling us either on her deathbed or posthumously, we may never know.
2. Why couldn't the Saudis et al defend themselves? In light of Osama bin Laden, I think our tentative answer is that most Arab Gulf states are afraid their own armed forces might start an Islamist civil war.

Gohmert Pyle strikes again

Good doorknob, we have numbnuts in Texas.

Timothy Egan wonders aloud: What if a Tucson gunpacker had shot somebody else, not Jared Loughner, in trying to be a good citizen? It almost happened. A person was packing heat near the Rep. Giffords town hall, and "whipped it out" when the shooting started, and almost pulled the trigger on one of the people wrestling with Loughner.

That's why (Louie) Gohmert Pyle is such an idiot:
But the Tucson shootings should discredit the canard that we need more guns at school, in the workplace, even in Congress. Yes, Congress. The Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert has proposed a bill to allow fellow members to carry firearms into the Capitol Building. Gohmert has enough trouble carrying a coherent thought onto the House floor. God forbid he would try to bring a Glock to work. By his reasoning, the Middle East would be better off if every nation in the region had nuclear weapons.

Yep, nutbar nations in the Middle East and nutbar GOP Congressmen are on about the same page.

Obama the enviro gets a C-minus

That's how a leading non-Gang Green environmentalist group, the Center for Biological Diversity, ranks his 2010 effort.

January 20, 2011

"Ask not" ... how far JFK's legacy has fallen

Jimmy Fallon is doing PSAs for Kennedy's call to service? As asked by Caroline Kennedy? Really?

Fuller story on this, as part of Jack's inauguration 50th anniversary, here.

Pharyngula gets Dr. Gosnell all wrong

In his rush to defend abortion, P.Z. Myers claims that abortionist Dr. Gosnell's murdering of babies delivered live is NOT murder! Seriously ... at comment #31
Sorry, but I consider birth to be an arbitrary dividing line. There are good legal reasons to call termination of a viable newborn murder, but I don't think there are good ethical reasons.

My response:

@PZ 31 and that's why you're such a HORRIBLE spokesperson for pro-choice issues.

Per your "logic," where DO you "draw the line"?

We could be good Baptists and draw it at the age of accountability, and say that unless a kid is 13 or older, it's not murder to kill him.

JFK at 50 - why do so many still rate him so highly

Robert Dallek is right - it's all about feelings, namely that Jack made us feel good. Of course, even a lot of THAT is subjective, viewed through the rose-colored rearview mirror of Jackie's Camelot project.

California and its seven ugly housing sisters

No, Texas didn't make this list. But, there's eight states in all, a mix of red, blue and purple politically, that may struggle most to come out of the recession because of housing-related issues.

Because the list includes two of the four largest states, two others in the top 10 and two others in the top 20, this is part of why the recovery is going to be soooo slow.

And, it's another reason to damn to hell Alan Greenspan of 2005 housing bubble knowledge.

Did the Texas GOP knowingly cause the budget shortfall?

The answer is quite arguably, yes, a majority of the current $27 billion Texas budget shortfall has a deliberate cause.

It all stems from the revisions of the business/franchise tax that came in "under estimates." Frankly, I think when the tax was being revised, the Texas GOP knew it was going to lower revenues, and that's what it wanted.

In any case, it was warned.
To understand how this happened, you have to go back to 2006, when Texas lawmakers passed a massive tax reform plan. The goal was to cut property taxes without costing the state any money. Perry designed a “tax swap” that would reduce property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a new business tax.

There was one major flaw with this plan — it didn’t balance. Property taxes were cut by $14 billion annually. But the new business tax brought in only $9 billion a year in new money. As a result, the tax-swap plan has burned a $5 billion hole in the budget every year since. (In 2007, a booming economy helped mask the problem, and in the 2009 session, lawmakers used $12 billion in federal stimulus money to fill the gap.)
The imbalance was well known. The Texas comptroller’s office warned Perry in 2006 that his plan didn’t pay for itself. The comptroller’s office estimated the plan would result in a five-year deficit of $23 billion. Perry and other legislative leaders ignored those warnings. Some Democrats in Austin suspect that G.O.P. leaders intentionally created this structural deficit as a way tamp down state spending. And some Republican leaders and conservative activist groups have made statements in recent weeks that expressed downright giddiness at the prospect of deep cuts in state spending. Lieut. Gov. David Dewhurst referred to the budget gap in his inaugural speech on Jan. 18 as an “opportunity.”

Whatever the reason for the structural deficit, the bill is now coming due. The 2006 tax swap has resulted in a shortfall of at least $20.9 billion the past two budget cycles, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Austin think tank.

Dewhurst's statement (shock me, really) is a bit of proof in the pudding.

An "opportunity" for WHAT? Budget antics like we have now? You're damn skippy.

As CNN puts it, even budget deficits are bigger in Texas. So are the budget lies.

January 19, 2011

That'll get Pettitte back!

New York Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman implored Andy Pettitte, on the fence about whether to retire or come back again, to "Don't Brett Favre us!"

Well, I'm sure Andy appreciates being compared to Brett.

That said, it appears Cashman has moved on.
"He's not open to persuasion. He's made a decision and if he changes his mind, he said he'd let us know. If he puts himself in play, obviously we have a spot for him, but until he does that, it's not worth speculating about."
Well, trying to get Carl Pavano to return is probably a sign you've moved on!

Hey, buddy, can you spare $15B in fees?

Yep, the Texas Lege is going to pass a balanced budget that will close a $27 billion gap (NOT $15 billion, you have to allow for natural growth in programs) without raising taxes or touching the rainy day fund.

Well, the GOP's backdoor taxes, otherwise known as fees, won't do it, no matter how laughably transparent they are.

Here's the one I love:
State employees and retirees who smoke would pay a $30-a-month "tobacco user monthly premium surcharge," raising an estimated $42 million for the budget.

Yep, that's from the same Rick Perry and GOP legislative wingnuts who want to "get government off the people's back."

I guess that doesn't include spying on state employees, let alone retirees, to see if they're smoking or not.

An "electronic filing of documents fee"? The state already charges you to renew a car registration online. So, are we going to get fee double-dipped?

Short answer? Of course we will.

You know what's coming?

You know how colleges, starting a couple of decades ago, started charging more and more activity and user fees?

Well, if you're sending a kid to public school ... don't be surprised if you get stuck with some fees. But, what about kids already on free lunches? Ahh, well, social Darwinism says they probably shouldn't be in school anyway.

Oh, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are you really sure you want to get rid of your state's income tax and lean on sales taxes? (And double-dipping fees?)

And, do you want to base your optimism on such a revenue structure on nutbars such as former Texas Rep. Talmadge Heflin?
Those who had claimed a massive Texas budget shortfall made assumptions about future spending that do not square with the realities of the legislative budget process. Agencies present legislators with optimistic or inflated requests, and legislators almost always pare those back to fit within the available revenue. The paring is much more aggressive during revenue difficulties.

Texas. The Ponzi State.™

How can Texas Lege make up $10B in education money?

According to page 6 of the Legislative Budget Bureau's budget summary, the Texas Legislature is $9.8 billion with-a-b short of fully funding school finance formulas.

And, given previous lawsuits over state funding for K-12 education, don't be surprised to see another oneat some point.
“They’ve got to pass a major school finance bill with major cuts in it,” said school finance expert Dan Casey, who predicts renewed interest in a lawsuit against the state “if you see cuts of this magnitude and no changes in standards.”

But, the draft budget will give no new money to school districts, neither to offset property tax declines nor to allow for student increases.

So, we'll get yet another in an ongoing series of lawsuits over education funding, wasting state and school district money on legal fees that could have been spent on education.

And, the Texas GOP damn well knows that.

It all stems from the revisions of the business/franchise tax that came in "under estimates." Frankly, I think when the tax was being revised, the Texas GOP knew it was going to lower revenues, and that's what it wanted.

In any case, it was warned.
To understand how this happened, you have to go back to 2006, when Texas lawmakers passed a massive tax reform plan. The goal was to cut property taxes without costing the state any money. Perry designed a “tax swap” that would reduce property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a new business tax.

There was one major flaw with this plan — it didn’t balance. Property taxes were cut by $14 billion annually. But the new business tax brought in only $9 billion a year in new money. As a result, the tax-swap plan has burned a $5 billion hole in the budget every year since. (In 2007, a booming economy helped mask the problem, and in the 2009 session, lawmakers used $12 billion in federal stimulus money to fill the gap.)
The imbalance was well known. The Texas comptroller’s office warned Perry in 2006 that his plan didn’t pay for itself. The comptroller’s office estimated the plan would result in a five-year deficit of $23 billion. Perry and other legislative leaders ignored those warnings. Some Democrats in Austin suspect that G.O.P. leaders intentionally created this structural deficit as a way tamp down state spending. And some Republican leaders and conservative activist groups have made statements in recent weeks that expressed downright giddiness at the prospect of deep cuts in state spending. Lieut. Gov. David Dewhurst referred to the budget gap in his inaugural speech on Jan. 18 as an “opportunity.”

Whatever the reason for the structural deficit, the bill is now coming due. The 2006 tax swap has resulted in a shortfall of at least $20.9 billion the past two budget cycles, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Austin think tank.

That $20.9 billion hole accounts for the majority of Texas’ current $27 billion shortfall.

Yeppers. But, big biz ain't the poor.

As CNN puts it, even budget deficits are bigger in Texas. So are the budget lies.

Beer here! could be poured a new way at stadiums

In case you haven't heard about it, "Bottom's Up" does exactly that ... fills a beer cup from the bottom, with a brilliantly simple idea, in about one-quarter the time of a traditional pour at a ballpark concession stand.

Check it out in brief:


Or watch how it speeds up concession lines:

Prince Albert ain't necessarily Saint Albert

Bernie Miklasz, the best columnist at the P-D sports desk, has an overall good, but still too management-friendly, update on Albert Pujols contract talks with St. Louis Cardinals management.

The "too friendly to management" part? Bernie tells Pujols "forget your deadlines."
If Pujols and agent Dan Lozano are serious about following through with this stance, if they remain rigid in enforcing it, then it makes them look unreasonable.

Even if part of the deadline issue is Pujols trying to manage PR, nonetheless, it's nothing new from him this year.

At the same time, Bernie does nail Pujols and agent Dan Lozano:
Pujols and Lozano must think everyone is naïve.

Here's what they don't want to tell you: By enforcing this spring-training deadline, Pujols and Lozano conveniently get an advance opportunity to market Pujols' free-agent campaign.

If the Cardinals don't have an agreement in place by spring training, interested teams will be getting their finances ready in preparation of courting Pujols.

And, so, I'm guessing he's less sanguine than other P-D writers on the chance of a deal getting done.

And, all you Cards fans who want to make Prince Albert into Saint Albert?

Bernie's right there, too. He isn't.

He may be a great guy; he may have a Christian aura that translates into a moral life. But, he's not a saint. He's a superstar playing hardball on a new contract.

That said, Bernie was equal-opportunity, chastising owner Bill DeWitt and GM John Mozeliak for wasting the previous two offseasons, or at least the previous one, after Ryan Howard got his new Phillies contract.

And, he also notes that Billy D. and Big John have lacked negotiating savvy in the recent past:
(W)e certainly have to point out that DeWitt and Mozeliak added to the market inflation by signing outfielder Matt Holliday to a seven-year deal worth $120 million last offseason, absent long-term offers to Holliday from other teams.

Bernies also points out that, in DeWitt's case, it runs in the family blood or DNA:
In Cincinnati, DeWitt's father, Bill Sr., attained baseball infamy by being the executive who traded Frank Robinson to Baltimore. In his first season (1966) with the Orioles, Robinson won the Triple Crown. And the Orioles won the World Series.

Back to your chastisement of Pujols, though, Bernie.
But if Pujols and Lozano are absolute in sticking with this spring-training deadline, they aren't being fair. They're needlessly drawing a line.

How long did it take the ownership-management dynamic duo to sign Holliday? Oh, about two months, if not less. So, why should Pujols retreat from his window?

You're just wrong on this.

The deal is, at least to me, Bernie, it seems clear that despite Pujols disavowals, Billy D. and Big John are still banking on a "hometown discount."

Pujols has said the deadline is for the good of the team.

Bernie notes the distraction is going to be around, anyway, and he's probably right. But, why blame Pujols for that? Again, this gets back to two wasted offseasons by m management. And, if the desire is really to eliminate distraction, then, that too ultimately falls at management's feet.

That's because DeWitt and Mozeliak have sat on their butts the past two years. And what Bernie fails to address.

It's nut-cutting time. Pure and simple.

Michael Reagan concern trolls for daddy's legacy

No surprise here. Michael Reagan, Ron's eldest and apparent legacy-preserver, is horrified by half-brother Ron's claim that old man Reagan may already have been developing Alzheimer's symptoms back in 1984, and that his befuddled performance in his first presidential debate against Walter Mondale reflected that.

Now, of course, there's no way to prove Ron's claim. And, it could be that Reagan was suffering another age-related problem besides Alzheimer's, including, perhaps, another dementia.

That said, the general idea I don't find unbelievable at all. Iran-Contra, certainly, looks like Reagan's actions and mindset were influenced in some way.

As for Ron talking about it now? Well, you Reagan centenary wingnuts, it turns out Nancy's OK with Ron talking, too.

As for Reagan having secret surgery while president? It's possible. It would be a lot harder to pull off than it was for Grover Cleveland in 1893, but it's possible.

I thought Bernie Miklasz was better than this

Other St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports staff, I expect to be "fluffers" of St. Louis Cardinals management on Albert Pujols contract talks.

Joe Strauss has been a suck-up in just the past week, in fact.

But I expected better from Bernie Miklasz, the best columnist at the P-D sports desk.

And now I'm hugely disappointed. Bernie tells Pujols "forget your deadlines."
If Pujols and agent Dan Lozano are serious about following through with this stance, if they remain rigid in enforcing it, then it makes them look unreasonable.

Even if part of the deadline issue is Pujols trying to manage PR, nonetheless, it's nothing new from him this year.

That said, speaking of "years," Bernie was equal-opportunity, chastising owner Bill DeWitt and GM John Mozeliak for wasting the previous two offseasons, or at least the previous one, after Ryan Howard got his new Phillies contract.

And, he also notes that Billy D. and Big John have lacked negotiating savvy in the recent past:
(W)e certainly have to point out that DeWitt and Mozeliak added to the market inflation by signing outfielder Matt Holliday to a seven-year deal worth $120 million last offseason, absent long-term offers to Holliday from other teams.

Bernies also points out that, in DeWitt's case, it runs in the family blood or DNA:
In Cincinnati, DeWitt's father, Bill Sr., attained baseball infamy by being the executive who traded Frank Robinson to Baltimore. In his first season (1966) with the Orioles, Robinson won the Triple Crown. And the Orioles won the World Series.

Back to your chastisement of Pujols, though, Bernie.
But if Pujols and Lozano are absolute in sticking with this spring-training deadline, they aren't being fair. They're needlessly drawing a line.

How long did it take the ownership-management dynamic duo to sign Holliday? Oh, about two months, if not less. So, why should Pujols retreat from his window?

You're just wrong on this.

The deal is, at least to me, Bernie, it seems clear that despite Pujols disavowals, Billy D. and Big John are still banking on a "hometown discount."

Pujols has said the deadline is for the good of the team.

Meanwhile, DeWitt is coming perilously close to whistling in the dark:
No deal by the start of spring training would not necessarily mean Pujols will be moving on. The Cardinals could sign him after next season and DeWitt expressed confidence that Pujols would not let it affect him on the field.

"If we don't sign him in the next four weeks, that doesn't mean he's not going to be a Cardinal," DeWitt said. "We'd love to sign him tomorrow, or whenever."

"Whenever"? As Pujols himself noted, the media's had this story to kick around for two years, because you've done nothing for two years toward resigning him!

At the same time, Bernie does nail Pujols and agent Dan Lozano:
Pujols and Lozano must think everyone is naïve.

Here's what they don't want to tell you: By enforcing this spring-training deadline, Pujols and Lozano conveniently get an advance opportunity to market Pujols' free-agent campaign.

If the Cardinals don't have an agreement in place by spring training, interested teams will be getting their finances ready in preparation of courting Pujols.

And, so, I'm guessing he's less sanguine than other P-D writers on the chance of a deal getting done.

And, all you Cards fans who want to make Prince Albert into Saint Albert?

Bernie's right there, too.

Pujols offered some additional thought himself:
Pujols noted that speculation regarding his future, and whether the Cardinals are willing to pay top dollar for the three-time NL MVP, has been swirling for several years. The Cardinals have four other players making more than $10 million a year in outfielder Matt Holliday and pitchers Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.

"You guys have the opportunity to be writing about this over the last two years," Pujols said. "So what else is there to say? I think everybody knows I want to be a Cardinals and what else is there to say?"

Exactly. That's because DeWitt and Mozeliak have sat on their butts the past two years. And what Bernie fails to address.

It's nut-cutting time. Pure and simple.

The benefits to Americans of collective security

Robert Wright notes that:
1. American hegemony is passing;
2. American unilateralism is still disliked;
3. Both 1 and 2 cost unnecessary military spending;
4. To say and act on 3 is NOT being isolationist.

Ergo, he points out, let's cut the defense budget more and stop playing global cop.

January 18, 2011

Big media consolidation ahead?

Freedom Communications and MediaNews, both partially owned by the same capital management group, Alden Global Capital as part of their emergence from bankruptcy, could merge.

It seems pretty clear this is NOT MediaNews driving the process. Dean-O, Dean Singleton, CEO of pre-bankruptcy MediaNews, is being kicked upstairs:
MediaNews on Tuesday announced a series of management changes under which current chairman and chief executive William Dean Singleton will relinquish his CEO role and become executive chairman of the Denver-based company. In a news release, MediaNews said the moves, which also include the hiring of three new directors, will "position the company to identify, pursue and execute on strategic consolidation opportunities."

That said, they aren't the only merger possibilities on Alden's list.

The recession and its fallout have depressed media properties. With folks like Alden either in control, or threatening to become in control, of more and more media chains, they're surely going to throw their weight around more.

Both Freedom and MediaNews are strong in the south and west. So, too is Hearst, rumored in the past to be linked to other merger possibilities.

Is the blogosphere a true kill zone for left-liberalism

In a long screed making the rounds, Freddie de Boer certainly thinks so.

Then again, he seems to think Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias were at one time really liberal (at least Yggs) then got corrupted or something. Actually, they never were that, that liberal.

And, he thinks Markos Moulitsas, Kos, apparently is the victim of a freezeout from neolib talking head types, and I'm inferring Freddie thinks that is because Kos is too liberal.

The man who cares about Dems winning first? Who thinks there's a phalanx of secret liberals inside the CIA? He's too liberal?

With left-liberal friends like this ...

The hypercapitalism of higher education

Just how bad is it getting? Well, 19 of 40 top U.S. research institution university presidents serve on at least one corporate board. The use of "adjunct" faculty is increasing.

And, there's plenty more where that came from.

As the Truthout story notes, these changes will also keep diminishing American universities as a fount of cultural leaven.

And, as more businesses expect more employees to engage in more career learning, corporate America will have more leverage on accelerating these trends. Plus, CEO-type university presidents will be all-too-willing to help.

Then, as the university-as-business model expands, what comes next? Further cuts in state aid to state institutions.

Comcastrophe?

No, I don't have cable TV or cable Internet, but Josh Silver of Free Press is right - the FCC's OK of the Comcast takeover of NBC (besides putting the lie to yet another Obama campaign promise) matters to all of us:
You might be saying, "I'm not a Comcast customer, so I'm not worried." But Comcast will jack up the prices that other cable and online distributors pay for NBC content, and you'll pay higher prices -- we promise.

You might be saying, "I can just get a new Internet provider if I don't like it." But there's almost no broadband competition. And as TV, radio, phone and other services increasingly become Internet-based, cable will be the only connection that's fast enough to deliver high-quality media and services to most Americans.

You might be saying, "Why should I care about a business deal between two giant companies?" But this merger is certain to be the first domino to fall in a series of mega-media mergers. The FCC's blessing of Comcast-NBC will embolden companies like AT&T or Verizon to try to gobble up content providers like Disney and CBS, creating a new era of media consolidation where even fewer companies control the content you watch and all the ways you watch it.

And, as far as takeovers? Wouldn't the ABC/ESPN juggernaut love to partner up with another communications company?

Goodbye, Joementum!

Joe Lieberman is reportedly retiring after his current term ends in January 2013.

Connecticut can elect a real Democrat and Senate Dems can stop kissing his butt.

Jim Reeves gets HOF, roiding, Pameiro right

Jim Reeves, formerly of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and now of ESPN, talks in detail about why he's willing to be a "gatekeeper" with his BBWAA vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame and keep out Rafael Palmeiro, along with Mark McGwire and others.

The nut graf, or two, is at the end:
I didn't vote for him. I doubt that I ever will. I can't and won't apologize for doing my job the best way I know how.

What I won't ever do, I hope, is bury my head in the sand and ignore my responsibility as a Hall of Fame voter. I'll quit before it comes to that.

Yes, it may be a tourist attraction and Cooperstown, N.Y., moneymaker above all else, but it is also a shrine to the game.

So Commissioner Bud Selig? Union leader Gene Orza? It's time to really fess up about your knowledge of, or guesses about, roiding.

January 17, 2011

NYT has narrow views on classical music

There's an interactive poll on a New York Times page right now, where you can vote for your top 10 classical musicians.

That said, it's sadly lacking at both endpoints of the time scale. No Palestrina? Or Monteverdi? Guess pre-Bach doesn't exist. And while it's not bad on modernist times, no Penderecki? No Schnittke?

January 16, 2011

Palin needs a divorce

NO, not from former "First Dude" Todd.

Instead, The Quitter with a Twitter™, who has, per this Ross Douthat column, fewer Twitter followers than Ben Stiller, needs a media divorce, says Ross.
To Palin: You were an actual politician once (remember that?), but you’re becoming the kind of caricature that your enemies have always tried to make of you. So maybe it’s time to turn off your iPad for a while ... just say no.

It's a good column.

Five weeks left on Pujols contract talks - updated

Albert Pujols has again confirmed that the St. Louis Cardinals have until the start of spring training to ink him to a new contract. General manager John Mozeliak has confirmed Pujols' deadline.

Cardinals position players report (voluntary date) Feb. 19, so that leaves five weeks from now.

Pujols, in follow-up commnents, said the deadline is for the good of the team.

Meanwhile, Redbirds owner Bill DeWitt is coming perilously close to whistling in the dark:
No deal by the start of spring training would not necessarily mean Pujols will be moving on. The Cardinals could sign him after next season and DeWitt expressed confidence that Pujols would not let it affect him on the field.

"If we don't sign him in the next four weeks, that doesn't mean he's not going to be a Cardinal," DeWitt said. "We'd love to sign him tomorrow, or whenever."

"Whenever"? As Pujols himself noted, the media's had this story to kick around for two years, because you've done nothing for two years toward resigning him!

Pujols offered some additional thought himself:
Pujols noted that speculation regarding his future, and whether the Cardinals are willing to pay top dollar for the three-time NL MVP, has been swirling for several years. The Cardinals have four other players making more than $10 million a year in outfielder Matt Holliday and pitchers Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.

"You guys have the opportunity to be writing about this over the last two years," Pujols said. "So what else is there to say? I think everybody knows I want to be a Cardinals and what else is there to say?"

Exactly. That's because DeWitt and Mozeliak have sat on their butts the past two years.

That said, Carp isn't going to get as much money in his next contract and Lohse is gone after his expires. Of course, Wainwright is going to want more!

I'm also going to pick a bit of a bone with ESPN, for saying that spending $8 million on Fat Elvis, Lance Berkman, means the Cards are willing to spend.

It may mean that. It may mean they're prepared to trade Pujols because they have a 1B replacement already in hand. I've thought that ever since the Cards signed him.

Cards writers with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were split on deal chances earlier this month, though none was hugely pessimistic at that time.

That said, reportedly, Alex Rodriguez type "historical bonuses" could help the Cards complete a deal. Given no Cards-only player has ever hit 500 HRs, and nobody has ever hit 600 in a Redbird uniform, and Lou Brock was the last to 3,000 hits, there's some angles here.

Over six years, barring injury or rapid decline, Pujols will surpass 600 HRs and 3,000 hits, and will easily pass the 1,500 mark in both runs scored and RBIs.

Given that he would be only the third "clean" 600/3,000 player, after Willie Mays and Henry Aaron (making assumptions of some sort about all three), there would be some definite marketing and tie-in dollars.

Of course, just as in A-Rod's case, the players' union would have to sign off on any such contract.

I see something in the neighborhood of 7 years, $200 million. An option, for more per year, could be 5 years, $150 million. (I'm taking this as straight cash, not deferred money or incentive/marketing bonuses.

What is "enlightenment," anyway?

I just got done reading John Horgan's "Rational Mysticism," a very good book. And, it provokes the question.

Is enlightenment recognizing there is no need for enlightenment? Is it recognizing that he self, the alleged target of enlightenment, is fleeting and changing? Is it recognizing that an alleged enlightenment experience cannot be seized, captured or chained up? Is it living in an "eternal" present that isn't eternal, only momentary, recognized as such, and therefore recognized as being incapable of being "lived in"? Is it accepting that life is often no more than muddling? Is it recognizing that there is no such thing as Big E-Enlightenment? Is it recognizing that while some experiences and moments may be more enlightening than others, there is no absolute enlightenment?

I think "enlightenment" of the best kind ultimately involves acceptance, in some way, shape or form. and, acceptance of one's self, and the self's circumstances, is usually at the bottom of that, followed by acceptance of the luck, arbitrariness and capriciousness of life.

So, viva Steven Weinberg!

is the black church dead?

If by black church, we mean its traditional, more social gospel, more politically liberally oriented version, then, yes, as discussed here, that's quite arguably the case.

If not dead, it's at least ailing and infirm.

Why?

Well, as the story notes, one big issue is the rise of black megachurches, more conservative in political tone and more focused on the prosperity gospel rather than social gospel. This became clear in the last decade when some pastors and other leaders at such churches even worked hand-in-glove with banks and other lenders to peddle toxic subprime mortgages to their flocks.

Not all black megachurches are quite that bad; T.J. Jakes, for example, seems to have a bit of the older sensibilities side by side with the social gospel. But many younger black ministers are indeed naked capitalists.

Related to that has been more blacks going to multicultural or even white-majority megachurches.

Along with this has been both the newer megachurches and many of the older black churches being openly illiberal on gay rights. From clandestine sex on the down low and its attendant AIDS fallout to the loss of Prop. 8 in California and what degree of effect black voters had on that (it may not have been a lot, but I reject some apologists, whether black and gay or not, who claim the effect was minimal to near-zero), it's also clear that on one major issue, the traditional and new black church are both losing relevance with one slice of black voters.

And, among a certain segment of the black underclass, black churches of any political bent are surely losing ground.

That said, none of this is bad.

While I'm certainly not a Republican or a generic political conservative, growing black political diversity would prevent their votes from being taken for granted.

Lessening political power of traditional black churches would lead to liberal push for black votes becoming less religiously focused, in turn.

Assange, rape, Duke lacrosse, Sweden, motives and WikiLeaks

First, I'll stipulate that the allegations against Julian Assange are about nonconsensual sex.

Contra Assange's London attorney, Mark Stephens, it's clear from here and here that no such offense exists, as Sweden's criminal code confirms and that Sweden is NOT wanting to talk to him about "Sex by surprise" but the charge is at least in any charges involving force, felonious nonconsensual sex.

Now that that's all stipulated, and we know to not believe Mark Stephens when he tells us it's daytime outside (while undercutting himself as a lawyer), let's proceed to the more serious issue at hand.

And, that is, does the background of primary accuser Anna Ardin leave the possibility, even the likelihood, that this is a false charge?

Update, Jan. 15, 2011 The Counterpunch article, referenced by FiredogLake in the link in the paragraph above, is ... problematic at least. That's because its co-author, Israel Shamir, is controversial at least. A (former) Jew who says he's a Christian and therefore not a Jew, apparently seeing that as only a religious identifier, he's at least a Holocaust minimizer if not a denier.

Here's more of a problem with the original charge, even, from a San Francisco Chronicle blog at the time Assange was originally charged:
(I)t was reported that the two women, who knew each other, came forward to Swedish Police. But the problem was they did not want to file an official report because of their so-called fears of his power.

What's fishy about that story is if the women actually knew who Julian was, thus "fearing his power," which is a joke of a claim, and knew what his controversial Wikileaks issue was about, why would they seek to file a false report of rape, especially since he up against the U.S Government?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, not Sweden?

As for false accusations? They happen. I'm not saying they happen often, but they clearly happen. Per the headline, need I remind you of the Duke lacrosse team?

Or, maybe they DO happen kind of often.

And, as for allegations that may be made that false rape claims are inflated, that many such claims aren't false because women withdraw their charges under male pressure, etc., and that a "men's rights" movement is engaged in blowback? In the Duke lacrosse case, then-DA Mike Wilfong was generally, and apparently rightly, seen as using the case as a potential election springboard. In the link above, it seems clear, if you go to the blogger's "about" page, he has no such men's right movement connection. Wiikipedia also reminded me of Tawana Brawley, an excellent comparison here, since she was exploited by more powerful people like Revvvvvvv. Al Sharpton for their own socio-political ends.

And, per Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, prominent criminal attorneys and co-founders of the Innocence Project, about one in four rape claims referred to the FBI don't pan out. Now, does that mean all of them are deliberately false? No. Interestingly, the false allegations have a strong age bias, being most common among the young, namely 16-25.

I don't know how old Ardin is, but her photographer friend mentioned in some stories is 26.

Appearing to use "false" in the sense of willful claims, a British study puts false rape claims there at about 9 percent.

And, one more thought on this issue. In the U.S. military, about 75 percent of BOTH men and women think false rape accusations are a problem.

Finally, let's remember that no country, no matter how idealistic in general, is perfect. A list of countries that cooperated with the Bush Administration on extraordinary renditions shows that.

As this blog reminds us, Sweden was one of those countries. As well as reminding us that Sweden has motive to dislike Assange:
Ahmed Agiza was rendered from Sweden to Egypt by U.S. agents through Bromma airport. However the U.S. agents were assisted by the Swedish secret service. He was tortured in Egypt and sentenced to 25 years later reduced to 15. His lawyers sued in Sweden for damages and won. He was awarded 330,000 Euros--but is still in jail!

The Swedish government was also directly involved. The rendition was approved by Anna Lindh, who was at the time the Minister of Foreign affairs but also the Minister of Justice.

(T)hese events show that the Swedish government can give in to pressure by the U.S. first by allowing transiting flights and then by allowing and cooperating with the USA in rendering Agiza. As mentioned there is no sign that Sweden has the stomach to actually charge CIA operatives. They did not want us to know either that they had stopped the flights because of disagreement with the U.S. Only Assange revealed that.

"Goes to motive," as a prosecutor would say.

Human Rights Watch has more, including on how Sweden's government engaged in foot-dragging on making amends for this illegal rendition and taking steps to prevent it in the future.

Speaking of extraordinary rendition and the CIA's relationship with Sweden, Counterpunch's original story on Ardin's political background goes straight to Swedish motive on wanting to run Assange to ground:
The WikiLeaks founder, pursued by malevolent forces around the world, sought momentary relief beneath Sweden’s reputation as a bastion of free speech. But the moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service. That got the present right-wing government out of its chair, as it does everything it can to bury the Prime Minister Olof Palme’s legacy of careful neutrality. The suspicion of whether the rape farce is an orchestrated campaign, might be illuminated by these facts: (1) Sweden sent troops to Afghanistan, (2) Assange’s WikiLeaks published the Afghan War Diary which exposed this cruel and needless neo-colonial campaign

So, Sweden has plenty of motive for a second prosecutor to refile charges, with pressure from the central government, after the original prosecutor dropped charges.

With all this in mind, for some feminists challenging perceived callousness of some men about whether what Assange allegedly did is rape or not, because of everything involved, this is a slender reed on which to hitch this issue. After all, Assange hasn't been formally charged of anything by Swedish authorities.

Finally, all of this is a reminder that, given previous British governments caving to both Obama and Bush pressure on various War on Terror related secrecy issues, Assange arguably has little chance at a fair extradition hearing.

Of course, as long as he stays in jail while being denied bail, that actually suits American interests just fine.

That said, despite the motives of both the Swedish government and Ms. Ardin, it's possibly Assange is guilty of some sort of sexual assault.

That then said, it's arguable he stands little chance of a fair trial in Sweden, should he be extradited there without a U.S. claim on his corpus.

UPDATE, Sept. 14, 2011: Here's another false rape claim, admitted to by the false claimant, a former New York City TV weatherwoman. Sad. And a reminder that while rape is a serious crime ... for that very reason, so is a false rape claim. Especially when driven by possible attempts to reclaim fame (this case?) for money (possibly in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case?) or for political or other motives (just barely possible in the Assange case?).


In any case, gender feminists like Stephanie Zvan need to get more honest about this.