July 30, 2011

A voter disconnect on Democrats

Stan Greenberg, currently partnering with James Carville and a former Bill Clinton presidential pollster, explains what many of us already know. Voters don't trust Democrats in multiple ways.

He notes that Democratic leadership has often been associated with [relatively] better income equality, employment. etc. But ...
There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives. ...

I see clearly that voters feel ever more estranged from government — and that they associate Democrats with government. If Democrats are going to be encumbered by that link, they need to change voters’ feelings about government. They can recite their good plans as a mantra and raise their voices as if they had not been heard, but voters will not listen to them if government is disreputable.

Oddly, many voters prefer the policies of Democrats to the policies of Republicans. They just don’t trust the Democrats to carry out those promises.
There's two issues here, and both are partially PR related. The first is that many people don't realize how liberal their own desires are. The second is that many people believe Democrats can't run government well, or in a way that seems well to them as individuals. This is related to the first issue.

In my opinion, it too is in part a casuality of Vietnam. Carter compounded it, largely not his fault, but with the Iranian hostage situation and the not-true "malaise." Then, when Reagan asked, "what has government done for you lately," the Democrats didn't have good spokespeople. Finally Bill-airy's botched, over-bureaucratic healthcare ideas were the last straw. Since then, Democrats have defined government efficiency on GOP terms.

Add in the shaky economy that right now seems to contribute to cynicism about life in general, then they won't believe in government as much. OR at least the current state of it.

Greenberg partially addresses this.
If they are to win trust, and votes, Democrats must show they are as determined as the Tea Party movement to change the rules of the game. In our surveys and media work for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, we found that only if people thought a candidate was going to change government in fundamental ways — starting with welfare and reinventing government — would they give permission to spend their money.
Unfortunately, PR cuts both ways. A fair amount of Clinton's change "wasn't," and a fair amount of what was, wasn't good.

Greenberg concludes with laundry list that's relatively mild, but to the left, by and large, and even several degrees to the left, of Barack Obama. Namely, it challenges his neoliberalism on unfettered free trade and the mythic powers of higher education.

#RickPerry: Just.Another.Politician.™ on gay marriage, #10thAmdt

Wasn't it just 24 hours ago that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was mouthing his 10th Amendment spiel about how much he was OK with New York's right to pass a state gay marriage law?

Oops. That was yesterday, this is today.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday he supports a federal limit on gay marriage and thinks a creator put life on Earth. ...

Perry, 61, said social issues should be decided state by state and even remarked that New York’s passage of gay marriage law was that state’s business. Still, he said he would support a constitutional amendment that takes away the power of the states to decide who can get married.

“Yes, sir, I would. I am for the federal marriage amendment,” he said. “And that’s about as sharp a point as I could put on it.”
Ahh, he must be getting closer indeed to jumping in the ring. His mouth is going to have a sprain from how quickly he switched to talking out of both sides of it.

Here's "yesterday," to refresh your memory:
“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me," Perry said last week at a speech in Aspen, Colo. "That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."
And I'm not the only one calling out Perry on his 10th Amendment flip flops. The political class, and the more intelligent sounding libertarians at Reason are already hammering him.
Tony Perkins, president of the once (and apparently still) influential Family Research Council ... quickly got Perry to submit to an interview, so that he could recant.

Perry’s conversation with Perkins suggests that he is either confused, or a liar. For Perkins wasn’t the only person Perry spoke to this week about his comments in Aspen. On the same day the Perkins interview appeared, the Texas governor told the New Hampshire Union Leader, “If you're going to respect the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, you can't go picking and choosing” which laws to shove down the states’ throats.
Even more hypocritical, his staff is splitting hairs trying to claim he's still for states rights on this issue because a constitutional amendment has to be passed on a state-by-state basis.

Meanwhile, the 10th Amendment apparently extends to states on abortion in Perry's world.
Despite holding personal pro-life beliefs, Texas Gov. Rick Perry categorized abortion as a states’ rights issue today, saying that if Roe v. Wade was overturned, it should be up to the states to decide the legality of the procedure.

“You either have to believe in the 10th Amendment or you don’t,” Perry told reporters after a bill signing in Houston. “You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn’t suit you say, 'We’d rather not have states decide that.'”
How long before he gets hit on this? And, how long before in-the-ring GOP candidates start bringing this up?

#FreethoughtBlogs: Initial thoughts

Here's PZip Myers' take on the new blog network he, Ed Brayton and others are establishing. My deconstruction will come soon enough.
The news is leaking out fast. Yes, we have a new blog network, http://freethoughtblogs.com, opening for business on Monday. We've got a good starting lineup, and will also be adding Greta Christina and Jen McCreight and some others once we shake out the bugs. We'll also consider adding a few other good blogs later -- ask me or +Ed Brayton once the dust settles -- but our goal is quality, not to build a massively huge network.

My plan is to post the current full content of Pharyngula on the new site. I will still be maintaining my relationship with Scienceblogs and National Geographic, but only select content will appear there: that is, science, anti-creationism, that sort of thing...the openly anti-religious material will be on FtB only. So if you're a Christian, you'll now be able to read Sb Pharyngula without crying (but don't fool yourself, I'll still be despising your foolish belief system); if you're a teacher, you'll be able to tell your students to read Sb Pharyngula without fearing the wrath of the PTA.
At Facebook, Ed added further info to various people. The group will also include Chris Roddy

OK, first of all, Ed said this was going to be science-focused.

I of course privately, though not to Ed's Facebook face, knew and said to myself that that simply wasn't going to be the case. And now, PZ has shown it so.

Greta Christina? All about politics. And, without meaning to be deliberately antagonistic, but simply descriptive, from a Gnu Lesbian angle.

Jen McCreight? BlagHag seems decent enough personally, but I'm not a follower of hers.

That said, Ed and P.Z. aren't 100 percent sympatico on all PR/marketing issues. Ed's said in the past he's really not a Gnu Atheist. And, in specific posts of his, he's questioned the legal tactics of more confrontationalist atheist organizations. Will he and P.Z. talk directly to/at each other on some of these issues in the future?

Who will have final call on recruiting new bloggers, too, in light of that?

#TLR now into make-up trading for Cards

That series of trades last year that was, essentially and really, a get Ryan Theriot and dump Brendan Ryan deal? Looks like even Tony La Russa is now admitting it's teh suck, or at least John Mozeliak is, as the Birds try to land Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Furcal has been an above-average hitter at SS, with a glove at least average. Until this year.

He's below the Mendoza Line this year. Though he is still a better fielder than Theriot.

Meanwhile, Ryan this year is batting as well as Theriot and gloving better than Furcal of three years ago.

This isn't "win now," it's "remake the team on Tony the Pony's terms."

#RickPerry budget smoke & mirrors hits poor elderly

Long before Tricky Ricky Perry and the GOP supermajority that couldn't shoot straight in the state House got around to their draconian budget cuts, I knew smoke and mirrors would be part of the mix.

Unfortunately, that smoke and mirrors is endangering elderly poor and making them suffer:
During one of worst heat waves in state history, Texas is holding onto millions of dollars intended to help hundreds of thousands of elderly and low-income residents pay their electric bills.

The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday the state has collected $130 million this fiscal year to help financially strapped Texas residents pay for the cost of electricity used for cooling, but has provided only $28 million so far to those who need it.

The reason: State lawmakers have locked away the money to deal with the budget shortfall. The state is now spending only half as much as it did to help the poor and elderly get through the summer a decade ago.
So, let's hear more about that Texas miracle, Tricky?

Meanwhile, time for your hypocrisy alert:
Texas leaders have said that until the economy recovers and lawmakers overhaul the state tax code, they have no choice but to amass the dedicated-fee money for use elsewhere.
Would that be the same Perry/House GOP gang that "overhauled" the business franchise tax and partially contributed to this mess?

Of course it would, as the hypocrisy continues:
Gov. Rick Perry proposed ending the assessment four years ago because the money was largely being diverted from its stated purpose.

The governor "continues to promote truth in taxation so Texans can be assured their tax dollars are being spent on their intended purpose," spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told the Morning News.

In 2004, the state made changes eligibility requirements, causing more than half of the almost 800,000 customers who had enrolled for assistance to be cut off. The state continued to collect the fee, but kept more of the money to balance the budget.
See, "overhauling the tax code" is code for screw the poor.

Truth in taxation? This is only the latest in a long string of lies. How about hunting licenses and other fees that go to the general fund, not TP&W?

July 29, 2011

#Debtmageddon: Boehner passes DOA bill

Techically, the sticking pile of crapola that just passed the House does meet President Obama's requirement of pushing the debt ceiling issue past the 2012 elections - with one big catch.
The House plan would raise it by $900 billion, allowing the government to pay its bills for about six more months, but with another $1.6 trillion increase possible if the House and Senate agree — by a two-thirds vote — to a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Boehner knows that's not going to happen. Tea partiers in the House GOP know the same. So, Boehner's final bill is all about posturing. This turkey will die in the Senate, even if the antiquated rules there mean we have to wait until Monday for it to die.

Of course, that means a full weekend of additional posturing by both halves of the duopoly, while we wait to see, and ponder, how many House Republicans will sign off on Harry Reid's bill if it passes the Senate.

Of course, that's a big if right there. What if the GOP does the fake filibuster threat? Will Reid force the Senate GOP into an actual filibuster? Does Mitch McConnell really want to go down that road?

And, what if Team Obama can pick off enough House Republicans to get Reid's bill passed? What happens to those folks within their own caucus? And, are House Dems dumb enough to try to recruit any of them as blue dogs?

But that's all about political theater. Let's look at political realities.

The Reid bill is little better.

Whether as debt theater, or as what the country really needs, it's little better.

Alleged savings from Iraq and Afghanistan? Please. With the Peace Prize Prez who hasn't met a war on his watch that is, per his 2002 non-antiwar speech, "rash and stupid"?

Medicare savings? Not a chance. Not when, year after year, Congress votes not to implement tighter Medicare payments to doctors.

And, there's many more alleged deficit cuts in both Reid's bill and Boehner's that aren't real cuts.

But, true progressives know those are secondary issues.


Will Cantor launch a coup against Boehner over #Debtmageddon?

Why not? It's clear after Thursday, as Salon notes, that he's a Speaker in name only on the debt issue. Meanwhile, with the GOP, especially tea partiers, hating earmarks, Boehner has no plums to pass out.

So, is Dana Milbank right that this is a no-confidence vote? In a sense, yes, but per Salon, who's going to replace Boehner? Cantor probably won't mount a coup; he's already shown he flees responsibility like a mole and sunlight.

That said, it could be more fun down the road.

What if Obama gets re-elected and the GOP loses control of the House?

When that happened to the Dems, Pelosi managed to "elbow herself down" to being minority leader, but I don't think Boehner can pull that off. Cantor would have no problem leading an "opposition," as long as he didn't have to be the face of a majority. Besides, the GOP probably will get the Senate back, so Sen. Porkulus, Mitch McConnell, could do that.

New Obama CAFE standards: myth vs reality

Don't get me wrong, I love President Obama's tough new miles-per-gallon fuel standards, except for him weakening the original ones on pickups somewhat.

But, Detroit knew, given that GM and Chrysler had been bailed out by Washington, that it really couldn't protest. And, they really didn't have much reason too, anyway. Not with all the exemptions:
Over all, the new standards will require a 54.5 miles per gallon corporate average for 2025. That standard will be made more easily achievable by credits that automakers can earn by producing battery-powered vehicles, hybrids and alternative-fuel models. Details of how the credits will work have not yet been made public, but the intention is to encourage the development of cars with far lower emissions.
So, back to the fuel standards. Detroit also accepted because they're really not THAT stringent. "Credits" for battery/hybrid cars will lower them a fair amount. As will alt-fuel cars. In short, GM, especially, is going to flood us with ethanol-burning "flex" vehicles.

Beyond that, his sellout on trucks and SUVs has rightly been protested by Volkswagen. (The truck/SUV increase is only 3.5 percent.)

I was ready to cut Obama a lot of slack on this one.

But, especially until we find out how "tight," or how "loose" all these exemptions are, especially the alt-fuel ones, no way, Jose. The fact that he's sold out on SUVs says enough, doesn't it?

Detroit accepts Obama diktat; why didn't he do similar to Wall Street

Don't get me wrong, I love President Obama's tough new miles-per-gallon fuel standards, except for him weakening the original ones on pickups somewhat.

But, Detroit knew, given that GM and Chrysler had been bailed out by Washington, that it really couldn't protest.

So, why didn't Team Obama do the same to Goddam Sachs, et al.

You know why; this was a rhetorical question.

July 28, 2011

#Debtmageddon: Cantor & petards, Boehner & paybacks, more

Eric Cantor says that the fault of default will all be Harry Reid's if the Senate doesn't immediately pass a House deficit-cutting bill.

Not so fast, there, Cochise. You, John Boehner and the rest of the House GOP still can't get your own bill passed on your side of the Capitol.

You unleashed the wingnut/tea partiers like Michele Bachmann. Now you have to live with her intransigence.

Meanwhile, as tea partiers continue to oppose Boehner's bill, it looks like the Speaker does know one thing: paybacks will be hell. Ohio wingnut Jim Jordan reportedly will be redistricted out of his district, with Boehner's blessing.

That said, other than punting further decisions past the 2012 elections, it is true that there's not a huge amount of difference between Boehner's plan and Reid's. That shows just how much politics is involved, namely the politics of wanting to repoliticize the debt issue next year.

But, the ultimate blame for that is Preznit Kumbaya's. He hasn't explained how much the recession has cut tax collections. At the same time, he's made Bush's wars his own and expanded them.

For Republicans who accuse him of playing politics with this, to the degree he is, he's playing at Double-A ball level at best. Of course, that's because he's addicted to compromise.

I think Obama actually believes people are that rational. I guess teaching at University of Chicago had too many Chicago School economists rub off on him.

At the same time ... NOT kicking the debt ceiling down the road past November 2012 could put Mitt Romney on the spot. (Or whomever gets the GOP nod.) That said, Obama might muff that, too.

Tiger at Firestone: waiting for the car wreck

Yes, that's a pun intended. Less than two weeks after firing Steve Williams, less than two weeks after swing coach SeanFoley said he'd not been on the range with Tiger any time recently, Tiger Woods said he plans to tee it up at Firestone next week.

Insert other punny bad jokes besides "car wreck," like "blowout," "wheels coming off," etc.

That said, if he's going to be there, he needs a looper. What's the latest rumor?

And, if he has been working out without Foley ... how close is their relationship?

ESPN has more; I think the one "sensical" thing about all this is that Firestone is a no-cut invitational. Of course, the flip side is that if Tiger sucks, he either has to stick through it for four days or else come up with a lame WD.

Prayer Day suit against Perry tossed

Here's the nut graf on the legal ruling, from the latest on the AP:
U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller said the Freedom From Religion Foundation argued against Perry's involvement based merely on feelings of exclusion, but did not show sufficient harm to merit the injunction they sought.
Disagree with rulings like this in general, whether on freedom of religion First Amendment issues, or on warrantless wiretapping First Amendment issues. It puts an undue burden of proof on a plaintiff who doesn't have sufficient knowledge to cross that threshold.

That said, Tricky Ricky said he was just like Obama:
“My prayer is that the courts will find that the first amendment is still applicable to the governor no matter what they might be doing and that what we've done in the state of Texas or what we've done in the governor's office is appropriate,” he said. “It's no different than what George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or President Truman or President Obama have done.”
That said, previous rulings on the National Day of Prayer were wrong for similar reasons.

More here on the decision.

The myth of "liberal Obama" at #Debtmageddon

For people who are still surprised at how much of the "safety net" President Obama is willing to negotiate away, let alone those in denial, here's a good column from pre-election day 2008.

Key takeaways?
1. Obama "auditioned" for the Democratic side of the D.C. Village back in 2003. And passed with flying colors, including from the business world.
2. The business community (Robert Rubin disciples rounded up by Vernon Jordan) felt Obama could be controlled, too.

Mimimalist stimulus? Not too big to scare off Wall Street? Check.
Catfood Commission? Check.
Current overcompromises? Check.

Even more proof #SamHarris is a #neocon

Due to a friend on social networks, I found this great essay deconstructing much of New Atheism's stance toward religion, with a particular focus on its stance toward Islam as exemplified by Sam Harris.

Among its links and footnotes? A 2004 column, "Mired in Religious War," that he wrote for ... the Washington Times.

Now, he's not a regular guest columnist there, tis true. Nonetheless, Harris is no idiot or naif on the political scene; he know the Times is a wingnut outfit.

And, not just a political wingnut outfit. There's the irony and hypocrisy of attacking a caricature of Islam in a paper that's not just conservative loony, but run by religious loonies.

Beyond that, Harris' crusade (no other word for it) against Islam is absolutist. And, it's part of a larger absolutism. What else could one say about column entitled "Science Must Destroy Religion"? Both the "must" and "destroy" are absolutist words.

Upon further reading, what I'm asking for is more skeptics to be like Scott Atran
.
I cited the evidence that atheists are as likely as religious people to scapegoat others, to hold dogmatic beliefs, and to condone violence because Harris and company repeatedly emphasize in one form or another that, all things being equal, atheism bests religion for tolerance, openness, and opposition to violence. Again, I see no evidence this is so (though I certainly wouldn't mind if were so).
That exactly sums up my take on the moral smugness of Gnu Atheists. It's no wonder Harris has used him as a reference without ever attempting to understand him.

Even more, Atran notes that Gnu Atheist types tend to believe, yes, believe, in a fundamental core of rationality no less than Chicago School economists:
I find it fascinating that among the brilliant scientists and philosophers at the conference, there was no convincing evidence presented that they know how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence based.
Well, it's not.

Global warming: Science harassment and bad "reporting"

Two stories on Yahoo, via Memeorandum, both caught my eye due to their headlines, one of which I know will get reposted again and again by the wingnuts and AGW denialists. That's the bad "reporting" one.

Let's get to the science harassment one first.

It looks like the government's offshore drilling management agency is harassing the two scientists who claim they saw dead polar bears in Arctic Ocean waters in 2004, a report that eventually forced the species to be officially listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

Here's the details of the more serious possible harassment against the lead scientist, Charles Monnett:
Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into "integrity issues." But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general's office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

On Thursday, Ruch's watchdog group plans to file a complaint with the agency on Monnett's behalf, asserting that Obama administration officials have "actively persecuted" him in violation of policy intended to protect scientists from political interference.
Could Kenny Boy Salazar at Interior, and his flunkies, do this? Certainly, just after BLM oil-lease bidding monkey wrencher Tim DeChristopher got two years in prison.

And, since the government won't let Monnett talk to the media, BOERME is acting as judge, jury and executioner, so far at least.

Beyond all I mentioned above, let's not forget Team Obama's generally ruthless actions in going after whistle-blowers, which kind of relates to that.

Salon has more on just how much this stinks, and on how it, like the bad "reporting," is being exploited by denialists.

Next, the bad "reporting."

It's all over this op-ed, which Forbes apparently first ran as a news story, and then Yahoo picked up as the same.

The BS factor starts with the headline, "New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism." And continues in the first graf, lest one think this is just using a headline to sell something:
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing.
As for claims about the peer-reviewed nature of the journal, well, I'll bet that's BS too, but right now, I can't get its website or the parent website to load. That probably indicates small server size and other things, which means right there that "peer reviewed" may be getting stretched.

And, besides that, the author's tagline at the end of the op-ed gives the store away:
James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
Yep, it's denialist bullshit all right.

Beyond that, the initial report author, Roy Spencer, not only also works for Heartland, but he's an intelligent design guy as well as an AGW denialist. Phil Plait has more.

Consumer Reports flunks pseudomedicine

Science-Based medicine has the details. Really? Assessing the effectiveness of "complimentary and alternative" medicine with a user survey? Dear CR: People, unlike new cars and appliances, are subject to the placebo effect.

Who's the UK's biggest political toady?

It would seem the two finalists are prime minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron and junior coalition partner and Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg.

As ever more of the Murdoch empire shenanigans come to light, and more and more questions arise about what Rupert and son Janes knew and when, here's where I pretty much think we're at.

Cameron basically faces Rupert Murdoch having just crapped in a commode, with Rupert then asking him, how long are you willing to stick in your head, and how deep.

Clegg, now that he knows how low Cameron has gone, yet stays in coalition, faces Cameron having just crapped in a commode, with Cameron then asking him, how long are you willing to stick in your head, and how deep.

However, these two may not be alone.

Labour leader Ed Miliband may have at least licked the rim of Murdoch's commode, it seems.

And, in the retired politician division, Tony the Pony Blair probably drank about as deep as Cameron did.

But, for my money, Clegg is the biggest toady. The alternative voting referendum failed, with Cameron doing nothing to promote it. Then, Cameron made his "let's privatize everything" comments. When News of the World melted down, Clegg had the perfect excuse to get on the moral high horse and leave the coalition.

Unless he's been drinking from Murdoch's crapper as well as Cameron's.

The real reason Moody's and S&P fear #Debtmageddon

Anybody who knows much about the housing bubble, not on the fradulent mortgage end as much as the finished-sausage-product end of CDOs and stuff knows that the ratings agencies were $2 financial whores, full of shit, or a bit of both. (They're not mutually exclusive.)

For Moody's, S&P and Fitch, the bottom line is the bottom line. Not the U.S. government's bottom line, their bottom line.

If there's a default, the economy in general slows down.

Not just the real economy, for those of us working real jobs, but the fake financial sector economy. That means less wheeling and dealing. That means fewer financial issues to be rated by these folks.

Besides whoring themselves out to Countrywide, numerous hedge funds, etc., in the last decade, did the ratings agencies say a word as George W. Bush put more and more war spending "off budget"?

Nope, not one damned word.

So, as you hear Moody's and S&P bleat and squeal in days ahead ... remember why.

July 27, 2011

Terrorism hits North Texas

Bombing a Planned Parenthood clinic with a Molotov cocktail ... is terrorism.

I await Gov. Rick Perry's and other state GOP officials' condemnation of this terrorist attack.

Cards pull trigger on Rasmus trade ... again, why?

Because he's in a two-month slump and still isn't one of tony La Russa's "boys," though he IS his daddy's boy,the St. Louis Cardinals have decided to trade Colby Rasmus

Trading for iffy free-agent-to-be starter Edwin Jackson AND a bag of spare parts in a three way deal?

Well, this was a modestly better deal than the original straight-up one with the White Sox. That said, it's pretty clear this is a "win this year" deal.

Here's who the Cards get back besides Jackson: Relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, along with outfielder Corey Patterson.

In other words, a fading former semi-fulltime closer and a LOOGY of decent but not great value, but with Dotel being a free agent (Note: I earlier incorrectly said Rzepczynski will be a free agent; rather, he'll be arbitration eligible), and a utility outfielder, ALSO a free agent after this year.

In exchange, the Cards trade an outfielder with more potential than all three of the players they get back, and one who is not free-agent eligible until 2015.

Here's Yahoo's Big League Stew blog's take on the trade:
Whatever his issues, Rasmus is by far the most talented player in the trade, which does address one of St. Louis' needs — more pitching. But it comes at a huge cost, for now and for the future.

Edwin Jackson is a free agent at season's end, Dotel is 37 years old and Patterson's career has mirrored what Rasmus' might look like if he doesn't develop consistency. Rzepczynski is really hard to spell, but is left-handed.
I'd agree. The only way this is a long-term, or even medium-term, win for the Cards is if Rasmus is at least as big a head case north of the border as south.

ESPN also thinks this is a dumb trade. And, with the Padres still interested in moving Heath Bell or his setup man Mike Adams (who is NOT in a free agent year, to boot), Tony the Pony could have done better.

And, if Tony the Pony wanted to help his pitching ... err, it would be nice to have a better SS than Theriot, among other things.

This also shows who really runs the front office for the Cards: Tony La Russa, not John Mozeliak. What will that mean for Albert Pujols? Or other deals of or for people who aren't "Tony's boys"?

A different god than Rick Perry's in #debtmageddon

A group of religious leaders running all the way from the National Organization of Evangelicals on the right to the United Church of Christ on the left met with President Obama last week and told him not to hit the poor hard in debt negotiations.

Good luck with that, but it points out that religious-based tea partier candidates like Rick Perry et al don't have a guaranteed lock on conservative voters on this issue, even in GOP primaries.

July 26, 2011

#ChrisHedges: The good, the bad, the ugly

All three attributes of much of Hedges' recent writing are encapsulated in his Truthout post about the Norway terror attacks, entitled, "Fundamentalism Kills."

The "good"? Yes, fundamentalism kills.

The "bad"? Claiming that most scientists practice "scientism."

The really, really "ugly"? A short sidebar screed against urbanization.

On the "bad," as in his anti-atheism book, Hedges simply fails to distinguish between a few scientists, or a few skeptics on the edge of science, just as he failed to distinguish between a few "Gnu Atheists" and the great many.
The caricature and fear are spread as diligently by the Christian right as they are by atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Our religious and secular fundamentalists all peddle the same racist filth and intolerance that infected Breivik.
Those two don't totally represent all Gnu Atheists, let alone all atheists in general.

Beyond that? Science isn't a second fundamentalism. "Scientism" may be, but science isn't. Ditto that "Gnu Atheism" may be a fundamentalism, but atheism in general isn't.

That said, the "bad" doesn't come out of nowhere. When a third "Gnu," P.Z. Myers, claims Hitch and Harris aren't conservatives, he refuses to face that Gnu Atheism has a messaging problem, fails to admit that this affects all atheism, and propagates both of those problems.

So, while Hedges is (once again) guilty of shoddy, shoddy thinking, I can understand his passion.

Beyond that, though, the bad leads into the ugly.

Here's Hedges on urbanism:
The Industrial Age has provided feats of engineering and technology, yet it has also destroyed community, spread the plague of urbanization, uprooted us all, turned human beings into cogs and made possible the total war and wholesale industrial killing that has marked the last century.
The problem of the evil side of urbanization, whether overstated or not, is mankind, not 'urbanization."

Otherwise, the invention of agriculture "uprooted' us from nomadism. And it turned humans into cogs more than 10,000 years ago.

It's also the only way the planet supports more than a few hundred million people, not more than 6 billion.

And that's why people like Hedges are more than a touch hypocritical. Does Hedges want to take a raft, kayak or Kon-Tiki to all his war journalism reporting? And, does he want to stop writing on the Internet? Stop taking his prescription medications, etc..

And, if we need to reduce world population by 90 percent as part of getting rid of "urbanization," is he volunteering to be part of that 90 percent?

Even if we concentrate on the last 100 years, urbanization has brought economies of scale, a flowering of the arts, etc. if Hedges doesn't like 'urbanization," he can move to North Dakota of his own free will. If he doesn't like that, he can join the "90 percent" that need to leave this planet.

Jeffrey Sachs: Third party needed

when a former capitalsit insider like Jeffrey Sachs starts talking about the need for a third party, the Mickey Edwards of the world should listen. Here's Sachs:
Obama's campaign promise to "change Washington" looks like pure bait and switch. ... Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class. ... Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.

Who runs America today? The rich and the multinational corporations. Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that ever word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country's needs. Who runs the Congress, on both sides of the aisle? The lobbyists, who win in every negotiation. And who loses? The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future not just in Obama's speeches but in fact.

America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline.
A secular amen in spades.

That said, I'm STILL waiting for the Glenn Greenwald who linked to this, the Paul Krugman who decries the MSM's coverage of debtmageddon, etc., to actively tout third-party movement.

Mickey Edwards, meet Teapot Tommy Friedman

On the Atlantic website, the former Oklahoma GOP congressman posts a meaningless paean to centrism in politics that needs a thorough deconstruction.

Much of it is focused on the evils of the modern political primary system causing candidates who are more partisan.

As opposed to this list of pre-primary era presidents:
1. William Henry Harrison
2. Zachary Taylor
3. Franklin Pierce
4. James Buchanan
5. Ulysses S. Grant
6. Benjamin Harrison
7. Warren G. Harding.

Of course, all of the "war hero" candidates above might have been nominated in a primary system anyway. But, it points out that, at least in presidential candidates, the "golden days" weren't.

Beyond that, in a four webpage essay, you'll not find ONE WORD about third parties. Because of that, you'll not find one word about instant runoff voting or similar ways to bolster third-party power. You also won't find one word about money in politics, public financing of congressional issues, or other actual changes we need.

And, when a former capitalsit insider like Jeffrey Sachs starts talking about the need for a third party, the Mickey Edwards of the world should listen. Here's Sachs:
Who runs America today? The rich and the multinational corporations. Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that ever word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country's needs. Who runs the Congress, on both sides of the aisle? The lobbyists, who win in every negotiation. And who loses? The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future not just in Obama's speeches but in fact.

America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline.
A secular amen in spades.

July 25, 2011

#Debtmageddon roundup for July 25

President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner remain at loggerheads, continuing to offer different plays (with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan looking more and more like a surrogate carrying water for Obama).

Both Boehner and Reid have "no new revenues" plans.

The big diff is that Boehner's doesn't kick this past 2013. (Of course, most countries don't have a "debt ceiling" anyway and we didn't before 1917.)

Boehner's short term plan could be bad politics for the GOP if enacted. You want Obama saying "we can't pay Social Security in, say, August 2012?) as well as just stupid.

But, given the way Obama in particular and many Democrats have acted on past issues, why shouldn't John of Orange hold out hope he can further wear down Preznit Kumbaya?

And, maybe part of the problem is that the GOP doesn't do math. John of Orange's "two-step solution" actually has five steps.

More than that, Boehner's continuing to tie a balanced-budget amendment vote to his plan shows how hostage he is to tea partiers. And, yet, they STILL don't like his latest offering. I would say tea partiers are Newt Gingrich of shutdown fame on steroids, but even that isn't right. Tea partiers are like shutdown-Newt on meth.

And, they lie even worse than Newt, too. Here's Ohio's Jim Jordan:
“The credit rating agencies have been clear that no matter what happens with the debt limit, the U.S. will lose its AAA credit rating unless we produce a credible plan to reduce the debt by trillions of dollars.
Nope. Rather, Moody's et al have said AAA is gone unless the debt ceiling is raised now and in a responsible manner. A balanced budget amendment, if passed, could lead to an even worse ratings tank at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, Boehner is trying to get Limbaugh's support. Whether against obama or against tea partiers, I'm not sure. maybe both.

Further proof of nuttery? Tea partier fave Steve King of Iowa wants to impeach Obama if we default.

Folks, we're going to have a default. Accept it. Now, whether Obama invokes the "full faith and credit" clause and/or 14th Amendment when Aug. 2 comes without a deal, who knows.

But, I'm giving 50-50 odds right now that we're going to have a default. No, that's not just me. ABC's "The Note" says 40 percent.

Update: First, Andrew Leonard doubts Obama will pull a 14th, or that it would settle much if he did. He's probably right on the impeachment angle; don't know about the rest.

Second, per Salon, Charles Greenstein has this to say about the "too mild for tea partiers" Boehner plan:
House Speaker John Boehner's new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform's coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of "class warfare." If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.
That default likelihood might be creeping north of 50 percent.

Cards want to trade Colby Rasmus? Why?

Because he's in a two-month slump and still isn't one of tony La Russa's "boys," the St. Louis Cardinals want to trade five-tool outfielder Colby Rasmus?

Trading for iffy free-agent-to-be starter Edwin Jackson AND lefty reliever Matt Thornton would be bad enough. Trading for just one or the other plus loose change from Kenny Williams' pocket would be stupid.

Yes, GM John Mozeliak says he's opposed, but Tony the Pony is surely still pushing this clunker of an idea.

Update: Well, the Cards pulled the trigger, getting a modestly better deal than the original one, let alone Jackson alone. That said, it's pretty clear this is a "win this year" deal.

Here's Yahoo's Big League Stew blog's take on the trade:
Whatever his issues, Rasmus is by far the most talented player in the trade, which does address one of St. Louis' needs — more pitching. But it comes at a huge cost, for now and for the future.

Edwin Jackson is a free agent at season's end, Dotel is 37 years old and Patterson's career has mirrored what Rasmus' might look like if he doesn't develop consistency. Rzepczynski is really hard to spell, but is left-handed.
I'd agree. The only way this is a long-term, or even medium-term, win for the Cards is if Rasmus is at least as big a head case north of the border as south.

This also shows who really runs the front office for the Cards: Tony La Russa, not John Mozeliak. What will that mean for Albert Pujols?

More proof Sam Harris is a #neocon

Anders Breivik, self-photo
I've blogged before about how famous "Gnu Atheist" Sam Harris, with the intensity of his Islamophobia, how that seeped into his book "The (IM)Moral Landscape," including authors in his bibliography and more, are clear signs he's some sort of neoconservative. (His stance on other aspects of moral issues, outside of Islamophobia, kind of gives tangential credence to that, too.) I blogged about P.Z. Myers trying to claim Harris isn't a religious conservative, which Zed continues to refuse to accept.

More circumstantial proof is now in. Harris tries to defend Norwegian bomb/shooting suspect Anders Breivik against claims he's a Christian fundamentalist.

Here's an extract from Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto that seems to be pretty clear evidence he's a fundamentalist.
When I initiate (providing I haven’t been apprehended before then), there is a 70% chance that I will complete the first objective, 40% for the second, 20% for the third and less than 5% chance that I will be able to complete the bonus mission. It is likely that I will pray to God for strength at one point during that operation, as I think most people in that situation would….If praying will act as an additional mental boost/soothing it is the pragmatical thing to do. I guess I will find out… If there is a God I will be allowed to enter heaven as all other martyrs for the Church in the past. (p. 1344)
If a Muslim bomber/shooter said that, Harris would be mad-dog foaming at the mouth.

Instead?

Here's Harris trying to explain this all away:
(T)he above passages would seem to undermine any claim that Breivik is a Christian fundamentalist in the usual sense. What cannot be doubted, however, is that Breivik’s explicit goal was to punish European liberals for their timidity in the face of Islam.
Harris then goes on to show how he and Breivik have further neocon backgrounds.
I have written a fair amount about the threat that Islam poses to open societies, but I am happy to say that Breivik appears never to have heard of me. He has, however, digested the opinions of many writers who share my general concerns—Theodore Dalrymple, Robert D. Kaplan, Lee Harris, Ibn Warraq, Bernard Lewis, Andrew Bostom, Robert Spencer, Walid Shoebat, Daniel Pipes, Bat Ye’or, Mark Steyn, Samuel Huntington, et al.
The last four are clear neocons, sometimes virulent. So is Lewis. Kaplan's on the fence. Warraq? Has other issues at times. I've not read too much of the others.

Sam Harris, you have now fallen into an even lower circle of any Dantean secular hell consignments that could exist.

Update: Andrew Sullivan uses his old term "Christianist" for people like Breivik. That said, without naming names, he has a word or two for the Sam Harrises of the world:
A pseudo-believer, he nonetheless favors the arch-authoritarianism of the Old Catholicism rather than contemporary Protestantism (just like the atheist neocons). He loathes all transnational institutions and reads at times like an incarnation of Richard Hofstadter's brilliant description of the "pseudoconservative". He is also Christianist in the new way. There was a time when the extreme Christian right in America was anti-Semitic; now the extreme right is fanatically pro-Israel as a vanguard against the real foe, Islam. And not Islamism, but Islam. They have long since dispensed with that critical distinction, leaving George W. Bush's scruples in the dust.
Sully, while I disagree with you a fair amount on some things, I couldn't have said that one better myself.

Google+ PR-

After not quite a month of Google+, it appears it's interesting, that it has potential to be better than Facebook, that its initial growth is much faster than Facebook and ...

That its initial growth rate of PR snafus is certainly higher than that of Facebook.

Several issues are involved here. They include lack of preparedness for growth, hardcore attitudes on several issues, and Facebook-like level hypocrisy on the hardcore attitudes.

In many ways, they exemplify what I've said for a couple of years now: Google has in many ways become the new Microsoft. Oh, the products may work better, at least a fair amount of time. But a mix of corporate arrogance and corporate arteriosclerosis (Apple has the first in spades, but not the second, so far) seems to be an issue.

Anyway, the specific Google+ issues and PR?

Let's take a look at each below the jump.


Direct to pay per view, The Quitter with a Twitter™

Headed damn close to direct to pay per view, the ultimate insult to a movie ... I present ... The Quitter with a Twitter™, Ms. Sarah Palin!
The movie played in 14 Tea Party-friendly locations this weekend -- up from the 10 in which it opened last week -- but grossed just $24,000.
Less than $2K a pop ... even at an el cheapo doco price, it's losing money like a Blackwater contractor's contract.

Let's parse this out. That's a full week's showing. We'll assume, for the sake of being charitable, that it only showed once a day at each of those theaters.

At $1,700 per week per theater, that's a touch under $250 a movie.

And, I'm assuming "gross" means what it normally does in the movie biz: total ticket sales. So, we got about 40 people per viewing watching this movie. Electricity in an air conditioned theater probably eats that up right there. Add in labor costs, rights fees, etc. ... and ugh.

And, that's being charitable.

If it showed 3x a night, it was "grossing" 80 bucks a view, with about 10 viewers.

On the other hand, now that Amy Winehouse is dead ... somebody needs to play her on the made-for-TV biopic.

Global warming is releasing 'The Dirty Dozen'

Things like DDT and other persistent organic pollutants have been trending downward, in terms of worldwide residues, for years. Advanced nations have cleaned up emissions of many of these from manufacturing processes, or in the case of things like DDT, greatly reduced their use.

Now, though, there's a problem. Arctic ice melting. (With industry concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere, the problem is greater here than in the Antarctic.)

The melting Arctic ice, driven by global warming, is starting to release more and more stored quantities of these pollutants.

Especially since these pollutants concentrate at the top end of the food chain (which is why DDT was so harmful to bald eagles) environmentalists rightly note that this news is grim.

It's probably grimmest for polar bears, being both at the top of the food chain and threatened as a species due to diminution of ice floes.

Exactly how grim it is remains to be seen. Especially if we ask if an ever-industrializing, and dirtily-industrializing, China adds to the POPs even as less sea ice is around to temporarily absorb them.

July 24, 2011

Congrats Bert Blyleven, a top-20 pitcher

Bert Blyleven
I previously posted about Bert Blyleven, in my opinion one of the top 20 MLB pitchers of all time, when he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.

Don't believe me? He's 27 in career wins, 14th in innings pitched, ninth in shutouts, 11th in starts, 13th in wins above replacement for pitchers and 43rd in wins above replacement for all players. And still, in today's whiff-heavy era, No. 5 in strikeouts.

Well, today was induction day. Blyleven, top-notch second baseman Robbie Alomar and Pat Gillick, a very good baseball executive with several teams, including Alomar's World Series-winning Toronto Blue Jays, all were honored.

There's an interesting sidebar, which probably hasn't happened before in any induction of three or more people. All three have significant non-American histories.

Blyleven was born in the Netherlands. Alomar has his best years in Toronto; his top two years were their 1992-93 World Series teams. And Pat Gillick was GM for those teams.

And Bert? Per Jim Caple, consider yourself circled. In the HOF.

Barack Obama, self-diminished at #Debtmageddon

In the New York Times Book Review, ace reporter Elizabeth Drew has a great story about how we have come to the point of a looming Debtmageddon. As an intro, she uses the obvious rhetorical question of "What were they thinking?"

At the same time, she's a bit iffy in spots. She said both Republicans and Democrats expected the other to be more pliable, without noting President Catfood has already practically given away the store, to the ire of many members of his own party and more liberal supporters, especially on things such as entitlements. But she does rightly note that there were divisions within both parties, especially Speaker of the House John Boehner vs. both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP, and Obama vs. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi among Democrats.

GOP factions within both House and Senate, and different political strategies, are all at stake:
Boehner and Cantor, and also Boehner and McConnell, have had their political differences and conflicting political exigencies. Boehner of course wants to retain Republican control of the House—it’s not inconceivable that the Democrats could pick up the necessary twenty-four seats to recover it. Therefore, Boehner didn’t want his flock to have to cast a controversial vote anytime close to the election. On the other hand, with twenty-three Democratic senators up for reelection, McConnell has had his eye on a Republican takeover of the Senate. His party would need to pick up only four seats. Therefore, he was looking for a way to force a controversial vote closer to the election.
And Democrats not named Obama had their own poltical angles:
Moreover, the Democrats had their own political reasons for opposing reductions in Medicare benefits. They had had great success in campaigning against Paul Ryan’s bizarre proposal, adopted by the House (despite even Boehner’s expressed misgivings), that would turn Medicare into a voucher system.
But, we're not at the meat of the story yet.


Dear Rick Perry: More than 3 months, still no rain

Dear Rick Perry:

It's been more than three months since your Easter weekend appeal for rain. In much of West Texas, we have yet to see a drop since then, as we're in the driest nine-month spell on the record books of modern statistics.

Well, you've got your big National Prayer Day event coming up, and I think you need to step up the ante.

I think you need to start cutting yourself with knives like Elijah told the prophets of Baal to do.
Like this, Tricky Ricky:

1 Kings 18:21-38
New International Version (NIV)
21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
Start cutting yourself with a knife in Reliant Stadium and see if you can get us some rain!