October 01, 2011

#RickPerrysTexasMiracle: racism

Ahh, Tricky Ricky: Pandering to Hispanic voters, primarily because your BFFs like Bob Perry like illegal immigrants building homes on the cheap, but ...

You and your family's relation with offensive black words appears, well ... offensive. The offensive? The word "Niggerhead," painted on a rock, at the entrance to a hunting camp possessing that name.

A hunting camp his father, then Perry himself, rented from the landowner.

Perry claims:
“My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984,” Perry wrote. “This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit.”
But, that's directly contradicted by several others, at the start of page 3 of the story:
Of those interviewed, the seven who said they saw the rock said the block-lettered name was clearly visible at different points in the 1980s and 1990s. One, a former worker on the ranch, believes he saw it as recently as 2008.
No wonder that, just before that, on page 2 of this in-depth story, we have this:
Most of those interviewed requested anonymity because they fear being ostracized or other repercussions in their small community. Some are supporters of Perry, whose parents still live in Paint Creek. Others, both Democrats and Republicans, are not. Several spoke matter-of-factly about the hunting camp and its name and wondered why it held any outside interest.
 And, no, this apparently wasn't a pebble, or a small stone:
“I was just so taken aback that it was so blatant, so in your face,” said a person from the Dallas area who visited the camp once in 1990 or 1991 and did not want to be named in a story potentially critical of Perry. “It was just, ‘whop.’ It was a big rock, big enough to write that whole thing out.”
Actually, I should say "isn't" and not "wasn't," because, as of earlier this year, the Post says the rock was still at the entrance, with the word still visible underneath a thin coat of white paint.

The easy thing to do would have been to broken the rock up, not just paint it over. Or, if you were going to paint it over, actually paint it over and then turn it upside down.

It appears like Perry's dad, Perry himself, or both, wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. Cover up the name enough to make it look like they were racially sensitive, but still leave the name showing enough to others to indicate that, if not racist, at least they had no problems with what was accepted old heritage for most of white Texas not so long ago.

You know, kind of like Ronald Reagan speaking about "states' rights' in Neshoba County, Mississippi, but in that blunter way that is the way of Rick Perry.

That said, Pizza Man Herman Cain has awakened from his earlier denialism about the history of Republican racism.and called Perry "insensitive."

And the rock "insulting":
There "isn't a more vile, negative word than the N-word, and for him to leave it there as long as he did, until before, I hear, they finally painted over it, is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country," said Cain, who is running against Perry and a group of others for the Republican presidential nomination.
If Fox is giving it this much play, that's a BIG trouble sign for Tricky Ricky.

Perry himself has issued a boilerplate  press release denial, with a heaping helping a weaselry, through his staff.
Governor Perry and his family never owned, controlled or managed the property referenced in the Washington Post story. The 42,000-acre ranch is owned by the Hendricks Home for Children, a West Texas charity.
So, you couldn't have said anything? Done anything? But .. .you DID! Your dad was the one who allegedly painted over the name. Or halfway covered it up.

More on the "dogwhistle" aspects of this, and the sundown town history in the area, below the fold.

Facebook enters PAC world (updated)

No, really. Facebook plans to start its own political action committee. This is ... kind of scary.

Hey, folks, you want FB using the money it will make off all your Timeline personal info to fund a PAC? Or even to use that info IN a PAC? You want Mark Zuckerberg selling your personal information to a U.S. Senate candidate from your state, or a House candidate from your Congressional district? Even if (or especially if) you are a supposedly stereotypical twentysomething who doesn't care about privacy (or politics) too much?

Anyway, let's look at that "information" side a bit more.

I don't care what Zuckerberg does with his money. I block all his ads, I don't play any of his Zynga games and I don't play any of his "games," either. So, any of his money doesn't come from me.

Information? Different issue entirely.

What's to stop him, from part of how his PAC operates, from selling information to political candidates? Given that, as part of legal controversies involving Facebook, it's been accused of data mining, selling your and my information is certainly something I would expect Zuckerberg to do.

What are his stances on political issues? Do you know? I don't. But, his Wikipedia page might share some information.
In 2010, Steven Levy, who authored the 1984 book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, wrote that Zuckerberg "clearly thinks of himself as a hacker." Zuckerberg said that "it's OK to break things" "to make them better." Facebook instituted "hackathons" held every six to eight weeks where participants would have one night to conceive of and complete a project. The company provided music, food, and beer at the hackathons, and many Facebook staff members, including Zuckerberg, regularly attended.
OK, as Occupy Wall Street, Julian Assange and others have demonstrated, people with hacker mentality often care more about breaking things for the sake of breaking things first, and only second, breaking things for some cause or other end result. It's not even libertarianism; it's self-centeredness.

Why this PAC?

Well, the last question is answered in the story; Marky Mark Zuckerberg is afraid that the federal regulation eyeball will get trained on him after it's done with Google. Uhh ... considering neither one of them created a PAC, isn't this shooting yourself in the foot? And, the general defensiveness behind that doesn't reflect well on Zuckerberg.

WSJ gets #PeakOil, #Bakken totally wrong

Peak Oil denialism and minimalization is perhaps not quite as politically predictable as climate change denialism, but, it's probably not that far away. And, when you can combine that with a faint hint of neoconservativism, all the better!

So, it's no surprise that Wall Street Journal/Cato nutbar opiner Stephen Moore says, with the help of a willing mouthpiece that North Dakota's Bakken oil shale formation means the Peace Garden State is the new Saudi Arabia and that OPEC's days are numbered.

And, when your nutbar is willing to do serious fluffing, all the better!
How much oil does Bakken have? The official estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey a few years ago was between four and five billion barrels. (Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma-based founder and CEO of Continental Resources) disagrees: "No way. We estimate that the entire field, fully developed, in Bakken is 24 billion barrels."
Uhh, Hamm's beer doesn't have that much cheap canned crap. The estimates are held in common by  others, not just USGS, as this site notes. Wikipedia has more; per its links, the highest claim I've seen is 18 billion barrels, and that's with a highly controversial claim of 50 percent oil recoverability. To get to Hamm's 24 billion barrels, unless he's also moving the goalposts on estimated reserves, you'd have to have 67 percent recoverability. And, at what per-barrel price are harder-to-reach portions of the reserves here worth recovering?

Oh, and this does NOT make Saudi Arabia irrelevant. Even with whatever fluffing it's doing, KSA claims more than 250 billion barrels of reserves. And, as of last year, OPEC overall had more than 80 percent of world reserves. Beyond that, Hamm tells a flat lie; OPEC production as a share of world production is increasing. So, reality? Per other quotes in the story, this is just the WSJ and Moore finding an excuse to bash alternative energy. Moore goes on to downplay other issues with shale oil drilling and more, unsurprisingly.

Even against Wall Street, ends do NOT justify means

That includes blatant Photoshopping of an alleged Occupy Wall Street photo, whether for commercialism, Adbusters-type self-aggrandizement or whatever.

It does not include calling the people you call out over noting your fakery "trolls," "vampires" and worse.

It does not include this:
My take is the world is on its deathbed and I would lie cheat, steal, murder and or give my life to save my daughter a place and a healthy future on this planet these banksters are destroying for imaginary profits and what are we going to do?
I know Adbusters is an "official sponsor" of Occupy Wall Street. So is Anonymous.

Well, half of Adbusters people aren't really left-liberal, not nearly as much as they are disgruntled graphic artists mad that top ad agencies haven't hired them. Anonymous? Protest for protest's sake as well as for an actual cause's sake.

The reality? Chris Hedges is right about what happened to speculators 300 and more years ago. But, he omits that there were no democracies then, and that monarchies of various degrees of authoritarianism executed speculators for offending against the state, not against the state's citizens.

And, Chris, your dystopian black-and-white call isn't entirely true, either. You, I and others can "fight back" in other ways. Buy less. Use less. Buy more wisely.

And, the idea that most citizens of the most infrastructure-intensive nation in history, even if they care that much, are willing to take that radical of action? Unlikely. Or to risk a collapse, if the current U.S. state is actually overthrown, of trying to put it back together.

NYT columnist Charles Blow is thinking somewhat similarly, noting the larger issues involved are not a zero-sum game. But, they are serious, and they need focus:
(T)he Tea Party has a specific political agenda. This protest does not. The Tea Party did a great job of channeling anger into electoral outcomes and shifting electoral sentiment....

What political outcome does this protest seek? It would be a waste for them to push back only against corporate enemies and put forward no political heroes. That may further dampen already flagging enthusiasm on the left.
Part of the problem is, as it is self-described, is that it is youth-driven. Youthful energy is good. But it doesn't always have the focus that Blow knows is needed.  And, sometimes, it's just wild "protest to protest" energy.

Nick Kristof agrees with his colleague Blow, and even goes to suggest some specific attainable political goals for the protest. He also, with a bit of on-the-ground anecdote, goes beyond Blow in showing how ridiculously inchoate some of the protest started out as being.

Blogging vs journalism, cornucopian new media-ism and other issues

The title may be a bit harsh, but I don't care, totally. Besides, as I've blogged before, Jay Rosen and other new media fluffers are actually pretty clueless about traditional media, especially on the business side.

The subject? It's about bloggers, some of whom do do journalistic-quality work, and others, like journalism professors who haven't actually been in the trenches, who think they know it all about journalism, including about how blogging and everything else New Media is introducing us to a Kurzweilian cornucopian future. (Note: The next post in this series, especially addressing issues of the "citizen journalist," is here.

Well, they're probably wrong.

They're definitely wrong if they, like science blogger Bora Zivkovic (we've had a running discussion, most recently on Google Plus, and before that on Facebook, about various issues journalistic), think you can separate business from everything else, whether on the mainstream media, or on blogging, and still expect the same quality. You can't. Parallel to that, they're definitely wrong if they think that advertising alone can carry the bill for long-form news reporting in blogging-style online formats, while denigrating paywalls, or listing any other option besides paywalls to supplement advertising, like the Jay Rosens of this world.

First, let me stipulate that I've seen plenty of problems in traditional print journalism. I've seen writers who can't write their way out of a wet paper bag without heavy editing. I've seen said writers illustrate the Peter Principle in action. On national news coverage, I've seen stereotypical behavior of the "mainstream media" in action.

That said, let me also stipulate I've seen bloggers who can't write their way out of a wet paper bag get followings. On foreign policy coverage, and more, I've seen one big blog, Talking Points Memo, from "insider angles" through overuse of anonymous sources and more, be just as bad as the "MSM."

Finally, let me also say that, in traditional journalism, I've seen writers illustrate the Peter Principle because of penny-rubbing and penny-pinching cheapness, or brokeness, of journalistic owners. That's a good illustration of why you can't separate the business side of journalism, or the blogging you expect to, or claim will, replace it, from the editorial side. Unless you expect ever more bloggers with some degree of care to do investigative work on tip jars, $3 a month in Google ads, and occasional click-through money.

During the past decade and even more during the past five years, investigative journalism at the federal level has declined somewhat. At most states, at the statehouse level, it's slipped a lot. And, outside the biggest central cities and their ritziest suburbs, at the local/regional level, it's become nonexistent.

And blogging has NOT, NOT, NOT, picked up the slack. And yes, contra Bora, there IS slack. Also, contra Bora, you can have slack in a system that's not, nonetheless, a zero-sum system. (Sidebar: I'd like to shoot Robert Wright at times and burn every copy of "Nonzero." The words "non-zero-sum system" are used WAY too glibly and loosely, in my opinion.)

More, much more, on blogging "vs." journalism issues below the fold.

September 30, 2011

Al-Awlaki: The reality, not the hype

First, a couple of things in the AP story of note:
Anwar al-Awlaki, and a second American, Samir Khan, were killed by a joint CIA-U.S. military air strike on their convoy in Yemen early Friday, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Both men played key roles in inspiring attacks against the U.S., and their killings are a devastating double blow to al-Qaida’s most dangerous franchise.
Editorializing by the AP, based on Obama administration talking points. Truth? We have no idea of whether or not this was "al-Qaida’s most dangerous franchise."

Second from the AP?
Obama refused to say whether he’d personally given the order for al-Awlaki to be killed, when  asked in an appearance on a syndicated radio show Friday afternoon.
Fear of a war crimes charge, either from a looking-backward future GOP president, or a country like Spain and aggressive judge Baltasar Garzon, hauling you before the International Criminal Court? (Hopefully, after being "defrocked" of your Nobel Peace Prize; in turn, that should teach the prize committee to stop making blatant political statements with the award.)

Next, via the Washington Post, the Department of Justice's secret memo for the Mafia-style hit wasn't drafted without the John Yoo replacements of Team Obama:
“What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war,” said one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closely held deliberations within the administration.
Nice language, eh?

Of course, with that type of due process, you don't need to prove anything against anybody; just alleged they are "plotting." As is done here, from the same story:
“As a general matter, it would be entirely lawful for the United States to target high-level leaders of enemy forces, regardless of their nationality, who are plotting to kill Americans both under the authority provided by Congress in its use of military force in the armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces as well as established international law that recognizes our right of self-defense,” an administration official said in a statement Friday.
Reality, of course, is that the government hasn't proven a thing of this sort against him.

Team Obama claims he played a direct role in the plot to blow up a jet over Detroit and other things. Here's Dear Leader, from the AP story:
He directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. He directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010.
But, noooo, can't show anybody that. State secrets, you know. Executive privilege, you know.

We heard this all before. In the period 2001-2009, from the same address, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Calls for Dear Leader to "restore the rule of law"? Great rhetoric; too bad they don't accord at all with reality.

And, an allegedly reasonable conservative like Jack Goldsmith is also wrong.That includes parroting the idea that due process is contextual. Boy, wouldn't every defense lawyer like to claim that "contextual" cuts the other way? And, the idea of claiming that al-Awlaki is like WWII Japanese admiral Yamomoto (let alone implying "we" have proof of that) is laughable.

Bipartisan foreign policy establishmentarianism.

As I've said before, Dear Leader is Just.Another.Politician.™. And, he and George W. Bush together first created an enemy, then a martyr.

Sarah Palin, Glen Rice; add an affair and coke

Supposedly, that's one of the things that Joe McGinniss has in his new Palin bio: the Quitter with a Twitter had a 1987 fling with University of Michigan, then NBA, basketball star Glen Rice.

First, there goes the chastity and purity righteousness angle.

Second, yes, there's a black Republican presidential candidate. Nonetheless, tea partiers are older and whiter than the typical GOP, which is certainly white enough. What does Palin having a relationship with a black man do amongst her biggest partisans? I suspect a whole lot of self-delusional denialism is coming down the pike.

Here's the bigger one, though:
According to the publishing source, McGinniss confirms an ENQUIRER exclusive – published in our Oct. 6, 2008 print issue – that Sarah carried on an extramarital affair with Todd’s business partner Brad Hanson, and Todd dissolved their snowmobile dealership after he learned about the affair.McGinniss  writes in the book that the affair lasted six months and he fuels rumors that the couple’s marriage has been on the rocks for decades.
Remember when Enquirer first reported this, that Palin had had an affair long after marrying Todd? Remember the massive follow-up by the mainstream media? Ahh, yeah, right. That's the sound of silence I recall.

That said, I love how, when the Palins refudiated (hey, c'mon, you saw that coming) the book, the AP reports Hanson released a statement through Palin allies. Did they pay him? How much? Can the Enquirer snoop more on that?

And, yeah, per First Dude, the New York Times did say this book "chases caustic, unsubstantiated gossip.” That's to the Times' detriment, not McGinniss'. It's also laughable, at best, hypocritical at worse, for the Old Gray Lady to chastise him for using anonymous sources. And, if it's "easily available to anyone with Internet access," then why didn't the NYT report more of this itself? Or is the "readily available" only the non-"unsubstantiated"? (Paging Judith Miller, paging Judith Miller!)

Ultimately, Janet Maslin's review, by turns tut-tutting, vaguely elitist/snooty, chiding and "inside New Yorkish" ... "yentas" in Palinville? ... says more about her and her paper than about McGinniss.

Having now read and reviewed McGinniss' book, I see the NYT protests WAYYYYY too much. Reality? This is a solid book; everything the Times calls "gossip" actually, per the legal profession, "goes to motive," to establish Palin's character and personality.

And, speaking of .... I think the Trig birth questions that McGinniss brings up are the "gossip" that the NYT abhors. And, McGinniss has a new answer to this: Palin filed to adopt a Down's baby in order to become a symbol for anti-abortion radicals. She had to hightail it back to Mat-Su Regional Hospital from Dallas because the adoption finalized early. It makes as much sense as anything. 

That said, given what he says about her and her parents, I wouldn't be surprised if there were sexual abuse in her background, given that she may well be manic-depressive, have a love-hate attitude about sexuality, and may be anorexic and/or bulimic.

Speaking of, Politico notes how it's not the first time the Times has shown Palin some love. And, I remember that nutbar column from the Aspen Institute person; it showed what was wrong with two institutions at the same time. I also didn't realize the Times' review violated a publisher's embargo. Niccceee ... hypocrisy and self-righteousness together.

More on the book's controversies, etc., below the fold.

Rick_Perry_False_Prophet REALLY needs to pray


Texas' state climatologist (who might be fired if Tricky Ricky gets even more anti-science, eh?) says the current state drought could be part of a longer dry spell lasting until 2020

Here's part of why:
Forecasters predict dry weather to last long-term beyond the next decade from the La Nina phenomenon that continues to recur, including in the upcoming year, to cool the surface waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
John Nielsen-Gammon also notes something along the lines of what I've said ... as records get gathered, our baseline of information for "worst," "100-year events," etc. changes.

But, even he didn't mention why La Nina might be stronger ... climate change. Global warming.

This day in Salon's reverse racist stupidity

Salon has lots of good columns and news stories, not even counting the always-good often-great Glenn Greenwald.

Today, though? Two pieces of total dreck.

David Sirota alleges white home-plate umpires could be racist against black pitchers, without providing much solid evidence. Yes, most umps are white. Baseball as a sport has become somewhat whiter and much more Hispanic, though, and especially on the mound. The QuestTec "evidence" is thin even bey Sirota standards. And, the discrepancy between QuesTec and non-QuesTec plate-calling is likely multicausal, with racial bias playing a small part, if at all, and certainly not the primary one.

Reality? First, the study is more nuanced than Sirota's screed. Second, it just relates to pitchers and umps; no real effect was shown by the race of the batter. True, the pitcher is a "constant" that the batter isn't, but the batter is a lot closer to the ump, to "remind" him of race issues. Third, speaking of, anecdotally, I think minority pitchers are a smaller percentage than minority hitters. Finally, statistical correlation is NOT causal correlation, especially in something with several factors involved. Read the actual study.

Finally, the study mentions what Sirota "conveniently skims over": that minority umps allegedly do it, too. Sirota's column is about bias against minorities only, even talking about "white privilege" in the sentence after noting the study said "minorities do it too." What an asshat.

Then, a black guest columnist, in what I am going to bluntly call reverse racism, takes Gene Lyons to task for a previous column of his, where he took an Obamiac writing in The Nation to task as part of his story on how many black liberals are getting antsy about Dear Leader. Saying that you're dropping the "Muthafuckas" from your original version to be polite to whitey is playing to a stereotype of race itself; to deliberately invoke that is ... reverse racism.

Frankly, speaking of ... both these columns would be better placed IN The Nation.

September 29, 2011

#RickPerrysTexasMiracle: unemployed teachers

Folks, this will keep getting worse before it gets better. First, per the story, teacher layoffs in Texas could approach 50,000 by the end of the school year.

Beyond that are larger issues. It's clear that the Texas miracle, to the degree it was real, was based almost entirely on immigration and to a large degree on illegal immigration. The non-oil/gas part of Texas' economy is now slumping, which leads to less of an immigrant flow outside those areas. And, various economic fears have taken the edge off oil prices, and hence growth in that area.

Housing? Maybe Texas isn't as "bubbly" as other Sunbelt states, but, it's not perfect. And, continuing woes in California mean fewer SoCal would-be retirees will actually be retiring. That means housing in East Texas' major metro areas will remain flat to slightly declining.

Add that all together, and I wouldn't be surprised if Texas' unemployment rate goes up another two-tenths of a percent to 8.7 by the end of the year.

Our probabilistic brains

Setting jokes about "Neanderthal conservatives" with their black-and-white thinking aside, and setting aside more serious issues about whether or not Bayes' theorem is the best way to handle how we adjust our thinking to changed scenarios, there's growing evidence that our brains evolved to handle probabilities.

If this is true, there's other fallout.

Above all (sorry, Ray Kurzweil, other singularity touters, etc.) this is another major dent for those who say major advances in artificial intelligence are just around the corner. There's nothing to indicate that robots, or even Watson-like computers regularly engage in this type of thinking evaluation. At the least, as the story notes, robots don't have anything close to the sensory skills to do something like this, and Watson has no sensory inputs of that sort at all.

Baby torture in the name of God?

That's my take on this story.

We have a 20-month-old baby, with an incurable neurological disorder. The Canadian hospital originally treating him recommends to his parents he just be sent home to die. Now, before wingnuts think this has anything to do with Canada's national healthcare system ... wrong. Several U.S. hospitals, approached after that, said the same thing.

But, desperate parents don't stop there. Instead, they let themselves be exploited (or willingly join in letting their baby be exploited) by hardcore anti-abortion Catholics. The same ones who tried to intervene in Terri Schiavo's case.
Baby Joseph, who suffered from Leigh's disease, was brought to Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis by his father and Frank Pavone of the New York-based anti-abortion organization Priests for Life.
Coming up? One steaming platter of exploitation:
Pavone issued a statement Wednesday from Amarillo, Texas, saying, "This young boy and his parents fulfilled a special mission from God. Amidst a culture of death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable, they upheld a culture of life where hope leads us to welcome and care for the vulnerable."
 Yep ... God gives babies incurable diseases (do NOT trot out "original sin" on me, anybody) to make us care more for others. (And, yes, like Ken Ham, some Xns actually will attribute the cause of anything wrong in our world to original sin.)

And, the "willingly join in," in parenthesis above? Yep on that:
"He passed away peacefully at home with his parents and family at his side. Praise God he had seven precious months with his family to be surrounded by love and was not put to death at the hands of doctors," family spokesman Brother Paul O'Donnell said in a Facebook posting.
So, you have sick parents who take "time out" from grieving to have a "family spokesman" post something for them on Facebook.

Conservatively religious people wonder why we secularists distrust them so much. There's your answer.

And, yes, it's torture. First, if you look at Leigh's disease, it has no known cure and its many, varied symptoms sound like they could be quite painful. Extending a child's life to "make a point" is torture; that's even more true if that forced life extension involves a painful procedure like a tracheotomy.

September 28, 2011

#StlCards Pujols fans probably pleading to wrong guy

Hey, Cards fans at Busch Stadium Sunday? If you really want Albert Pujols to stay, you shouldn't (just) have been addressing pleas down to the stadium below, but up to the ownership box. Will Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak make a better, a significantly better offer, than the 10 years, $191 million that was the last thing they floated in public before spring training?

UPDATE: That said, you can plead away at least one more game, to Pujols, owner Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak, as WE GO TO THE PLAYOFFS!

You probably also should have called some of your friends on the phone, per the story, to be at the stadium. Second inning? Last home game of the year? Playing the Cubs? Fighting for a playoff spot? And there are still noticeable empty seats/seat areas? What, has Busch become Dodger Stadium?

And, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which reminds us of an overtone, or undercurrent: Was this the last game with the Birds on Bats for The Machine? Meanwhile, he's 1 RBI short of 100, and got a hit, so holding onto .300 chances.

Anyway,  will Bill and Mo come through? Maybe not. Per this Joe Strauss column it doesn't sound highly likely. And, it sounds like Mo, and maybe Bill, have already halfway conceded that. 

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak offer reserved testimonials while acknowledging they have no idea where the next two-to-three months will take the relationship with a player who next year almost certainly would surpass Stan Musial as the franchise home run leader.

"It's the era we're in,'' Dewitt said. "Many times they sign back with the same club. With a legendary player like Albert, you hope he stays his whole career with the Cardinals, like Stan did. But that process is going to take place and we're not sure how it's going to play out. I'm sure he's not sure either at this point.''

"When you reflect on his career, it's been a historic run for he and the St. Louis Cardinals,'' Mozeliak said. "As far as our mindset, we still believe there is a chance that Albert will be wearing a Cardinal uniform in 2012."

Strauss goes on to note the team reportedly isn't ready to budge above a rumored eight-nine years, $22-23 million per year contract and may even be wanting to shorten that. (Also note: the last public offer by the team was 10 years, $191 million.)

That only intensifies my guess that it's 50-50 he goes elsewhere. Cubs still rank No. 1 as a landing spot, at least if Pujols has revenge on his mind. Dodgers are No. 2 if Bud Selig can ram through his forced sale soon enough. Braves, with room to spend, are No. 3 and Angels are No. 4. I think the White Sox are No. 5.

I don't know why neither the Braves nor White Sox are on most radar screens. The Braves are one good, experienced bat away from overtaking the  aging Phillies in the NL East. The ChiSox are a competitive team who have money to spend. I know the Braves of the past haven't been major free agent players, but things can change.

That's five teams with legitimate money to spend. Nos. 3-5 are some sort of contenders right now and would be on the A-list of teams to beat if they added Pujols. So, if Mo is thinking there will be a soft market, he's betting wrong.

Others? Mets' financial pic is messier than the Dodgers. The Nats do like to spend, and might come up on the outside. I still really don't see the Yankees involved unless A-Rod, Tex or Albert plays DH, and they'd still have to eat a LOT of money for that. (And don't forget C.C. Sabathia's opt-out.) Red Sox are at their max on payroll.

And, if he moves on? Jimmy Rollins would be an OK free agent pickup, if the price is right. Looking ahead another year? I expect Mo to look at both 1B and 3B free agents for 2013, with the idea that if he doesn't re-extend Lance Berkman, David Freese could be moved across the diamond. No, that wouldn't be ideal, but I'm sure Mo's already thinking about that possibility. Mo will probably wait as long as possible this year to make an improved Pujols offer, anyway. If he sees Prince Fielder move on, and the Reds make no big moves, he knows he can compete in the NL Central for the next two years anyway.

As for Cards fans invoking the sainted name of Stan Musial as a reason for Albert to stay? Get real. If Stan were playing today, he'd likely hold out for the best, or near-best, deal. Besides, both loyalty and lack thereof is a two-way street. After all, the team more than once entertained serious trade offers for Stan the Man.

Finally, while the team's resigning of Pujols may affect Tony La Russa's decision on whether or not to return, despite occasional public protestations of loyalty by Albert, I don't think the other is necessarily true. That said, managerial issues might steer him away from the Cubs. And Latino affinity might give the White Sox and Braves a bump.

Your next Secretary of the Treasury?

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, and a Democrat-turned-Republican political whore who finished at the back of the pack in Kay Baily Hutchison's original special election to the U.S. Senate, is clearly in my mind "auditioning" to be Rick Perry's Secretary of the Treasury.

Will the EU fracture?

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne gives Eurozone members "only a few weeks" to save the quasi-nation supernational entity. He was speaking narrowly about the euro as a common currency, but, in things like this, you can't take one step backward without other fallout.

In hindsight, early national opposition to the Maastricht Treaty that lead to the euro currency seems more than reasonable. But, promises from Brussels aside, it's clear that nobody back then thought about national fiscal issues that would crop up.

Given that Eurozone members today say they passed "the Articles of Confederation," and know what they mean when they say that, why wasn't anybody saying that 19-20 years ago? Or in the run-up between the passage of the treaty and the implementation of the Euro?

Don't tell me Eurozone leaders got incredible enlightenment in the past six weeks, or even six months.

While the new "old Europe" is good in many ways, it's now straddling two sawhorses. And, the "fixes" proposed so far won't cut it.

Greece, for example, doesn't need more bailout; it needs the other countries to take it over, at least until a true union is approved in Europe. And, until the EU admits that, it loses relevance.

That said, can the EU survive without the euro? Sure, it did pre-1992. Or, the current EU can get serious about debt rules and boot some current members. Or, to the degree I understand finance, the EU could be made a notional reserve currency while EU members go back to national currencies.

#ArsenicGate updated

It's now clearer than ever that NASA's hyping of some alleged arsenic-based life several months ago (with arsenic allegedly replacing phosphorus) was a big PR hype by NASA, as this extended piece shows. See page 3 to get the details on NASA's PR blitz. On page 4, NASA tries to justify this:
Because NASA is dependent for funding on Congress, and therefore its constituents, it needs to project an ongoing sense of relevance. But the agency also needs to maintain its scientific credibility. The controversy over GFAJ-1 demonstrates the risks inherent when a scientific institution assumes a media role. NASA’s publicity blitz created expectations that weren’t matched by the paper’s data, and this vastly amplified the criticism that followed.
Dwayne Brown, the NASA spokesman, has said that the agency is comfortable with how it handled the affair, particularly the use of the term “extraterrestrial life.” In a story posted on the Embargo Watch blog, he said, “It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback. However, the statement was accurate. The real issue is that the reporting world has changed because of the Internet/bloggers/social media, etc. A ‘buzz’ term like ET will have anyone with a computer putting out anything they want or feel. NASA didn’t hype anything—others did.”

I stand by what I first said about this, re Congressional funding. With the end of the shuttle, and Congressional GOPers in a budget-cutting mood, NASA needed a "splash." So, it created one.

And, while not all of the PR hype was directly or indirectly lead scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon's fault, much of it was. I do feel sorry that NASA and the overseers of the research group she was in at the time have made her a scapegoat; but, she bought her ticket months before the official announcement.

Hey, Greg Laden? Still buying the NASA company line?

Hat tip to my friend Leo Lincourt for the story link.

Dear Obama: You can't out-Wall Street the GOP

That is Salon's bottom-line takeaway from word that (former) Obama BFFF Jamie Dimon has been seen palling around with Mitt Romney.

But, it's true. Bill Clinton halfway pulled it off because Gingrich was an idiot and Bob Dole was clueless, plus the Slickster's style was a factor. Now, if Perry gets the GOP nod, Dimon may, if not coming back to Obama, sit on the sidelines. But, if it's Mittens? Dimon is right. Wall Street is all GOP then.

Obama: A botched story line

A new Gallup poll says as many Americans prefer an "activist" government as prefer a "basic services" government, with about 40 percent supporting each, but that an outright majority of Americans think the current government is too activist.

And, that's the botched story line.

Between the current administration not always being that activist, botching some activism, and trimming other activism for political reasons, the story line of Obama's degree of activism has gotten badly mangled. In terms of appealing to moderates, is it too late? And, how does Dear Leader do that without further alienating people who identify as true progressives yet are still attached to him?

It won't be easy, that's for sure.

September 27, 2011

Ed Miliband tries to have his New Labour cake and eat it too

Now that Britain's Liberal Democrats have finished executing their incredible exercise in self-delusion at their party caucus, it's on to Labour.

Party leader Ed Miliband, not being part of a coalition that offers nothing to its junior partner but table scraps of prestige, doesn't have to lead his forces in self-delusion. Instead, this New Labourite has to pretend he "understands" Old Labour, while yet showing British elites he doesn't AGREE with Old Labour, for the most part.

By those standards, he was a rousing success! Picture Obama being more subtle in his professed admiration for Reagan, and doing it as part of the 2008 DNC, and you get the idea.

Can BRICs handle #PeakOil better than West?

Some very interesting thoughts to that end, here, arguing that China, at least, can handle oil prices of $10-20/bbl higher than the U.S. If even partially true, that means we're in for a long period of stop-and-start low growth exacerbated by U.S. businesses being tight on adding jobs.

And, it says that many Arab nations want oil at $90 or above to buy off domestic discontent. But, if the West can't consistently afford it, or any Western energy savings get soaked up by China, the world economy may halfway hurt the West for some time.

Texas votes can be altered for $10

Seriously. A new study shows a Diebold voting machine can be hacked for just over 10 bucks. Neither the state government of Texas and other states that use Diebold machines, nor the federal governemtn, will do anything significant, either?

Why? In part, it's at the voters' end.

Many of us, and I deliberately note that, have these two beliefs:
1. Most people wouldn't do that;
2. We want democracy on the cheap.

The first issue? Oh yes they would. And, we're not just talking state and federal races, where fraud would be most visible. Tip a few dozen votes in a close municipal race adn a city of 100,000 gets a new mayor.

The second issue? Very true. Voters in every state in the U.S., if presented with the cost in both time and money, would reject "Old Europe's" continued use of paper ballots.

September 26, 2011

Obama the incompetent and Democrats the incompetent

That's takeaway No. 1 I get from Ron Suskind's new book, per an AP review piece. That's an overall takeaway

Takeaway No. 2? Related to that: Obama doesn't have executive management skills, and he couldn't, or wouldn't, find someone to do that for him, even in the face of insubordination.
The book states Geithner and the Treasury Department ignored a March 2009 order to consider dissolving banking giant Citigroup while continuing stress tests on banks.

The Citbank incident (where Tim Geithner basically ignored Obama, see below), and others like it, reflected a more pernicious and personal dilemma emerging from inside the administration: that the young president's authority was being systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers," Suskind writes.
I thought Rahm Emanuel was supposed to do that for him, the management, the head knocking and more. But, I guess not! He wasn't even the initial choice:
The book says one of Obama's top advisers, former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, was not the president's first choice for the position. According to Suskind, Emanuel's name was not even on the initial short list, which included White House aide Pete Rouse.
 So, did Rahmbo have some digital pictures (updated from "negatives") of Obama, or what?

And, per a review on Amazon:
As the nation’s crises deepened, Obama’s deputies often ignored the president’s decisions—“to protect him from himself”—while they fought to seize control of a rudderless White House. Bitter disputes—between men and women, policy and politics—ruled the day. The result was an administration that found itself overtaken by events as, year to year, Obama struggled to grow into the world’s toughest job and, in desperation, take control of his own administration.
 Back to the AP story, for more on the incompetence:
Suskind states that Obama accepts the blame for mismanagement in his administration while noting that restructuring the financial system was complicated and could have resulted in deeper financial harm. One of the major complaints about Obama's administration is that it was too easy on major financial institutions, including Citi. The president had wanted Treasury officials to focus on a proposal to dissolve the bank, but no plan was ever created, the book states.
And Rahm, or a better chief of staff, couldn't knock heads on the financial side while also doing other things? The fact is that the administration is still too easy on major financial institutions, and Geithner et al continue to be insubordinate. If nothing else, Obama's whiney fake mea culpa makes him look worse yet.

UPDATE 2: Salon's Jacob Weisberg argues that the "misquote" complaints by Larry Summers and others probably should be taken seriously, and Suskind himself should not be. I'll admit that Suskind's idea narrative appeals to me; maybe that's why I haven't been more critically thinking about it. That said, having read also Brad DeLong's take on the book at Huff Post (sorry, no link) where he says Orzag was the biggest person to lead Obama astray, I think he and Weisberg are both, in different ways, "covering" for Summers and Geitner. Weisberg blames Orzag for Suskind getting it wrong; DeLong blames Orzag for Obama getting it wrong.

The deal? Orzag is the biggest financier not in the government. So, he's the person who's going to get kicked. DeLong is definitely a semi-insider; not sure about Weisberg, but, for argument's sake I'll say the same. DeLong laughingly claimed Geithner can't be a Wall Street tool because he never worked on the Street. Brad ignores the Vernon Jordan parade of Obama before Wall Streeters way back in 2003, or else he's that clueless.

UPDATE: The NYT story on the book offers much more fodder, including women insiders complaining about gender inequality at the White House (largely caused by Larry Summers), Summers claiming that Suskind misquoted him and more:
“The administration’s domestic policy was fast becoming a debate society run by Larry Summers,” Ms. Suskind writes. “Obama would sit on high, trying to judge if there was any shared ground between the competing debate teams that might coalesce into a policy.” Mr. Suskind asks whether this was “a model for sound decision making, a crutch to delay, or avoid, the decisions only a president can make, or a recipe for producing half-measures — a pinch of this matched with a scoop of that — masquerading as solutions.”
The NYT wonders how this squares with Obama's decisiveness in ordering the operation to kill bin Laden? Simple. Obama had committed to being "tough on terror" back in the 2008 presidential debates. Besides that, every president think he is an expert on foreign policy, as well as reveling in the degree of independence and freedom of action it offers.

That said, the NYT notes that Suskind wonders why Obama turned away from more liberal economic advisers such as Joe Stiglitz. Well, I guess even Suskind didn't do all of his homework, mainly on Democratic National Procurer Vernon Jordan parading Obama before Wall Streeters in 2003.

Update No. 2: Joan Walsh has a long take on this book, and a generally good one, despite being a mild Obamiac herself.

Just this one takeway, which says a lot about Dear Leader:
Suskind frequently stops mid-narrative to grapple with the central question of his book: Was the problem mainly with Obama's staff, which can be corrected by a staff shakeup, and with the president's early inexperienced leadership, which can be ameliorated by experience? Or is there something missing in Obama himself, in his vision and values, that led to the lack of bold action to solve the nation's biggest problems?
However, Walsh is too willing to see Obama's current faux populism as the real deal.

More below the fold, as I reflect on a man whose competence level, along with "eloquence" and other things, only got to be touted because of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" of comparison to George W. Bush.

The decline of the #neolib West - and NYT denialism

Well, "West" ultimately means "United States," especially if Europe gets its Euro-act together.

At Salon, Pepe Escobar has a great, in-depth essay on this. Some economists estimate that, by some measures, China's economy will be larger than the U.S. one by the end of this decade.

How did we get here? In part, the "engagement" policy of H.W. Bush's mainline conservativism was expanded by neolib Bill Clinton, who argued that "engagement" with China economically would lead it to more democratic-style political development. Twenty years on, other than worker protests, we've seen none of that, and none from the top, where the upcoming "replacement cadre" of future leaders is in some cases more Maoist than the current class.

Meanwhile, back here, neoliberalism has increased economic disparity in a way that models China's. So what does the New York Times do? It mocks it, with a mockery that Digby notes it never gave to the various astroturfed tea party groups.

So, legitimate rage that wants neolib excess reigned in by regulation gets mocked. Semi-legit rage that gets usurped by hypercapitalists to argue for less regulation gets treated seriously.

September 25, 2011

#TigerWoods has selfish idea of loyalty

So, Tiger Woods fired Steve Williams as his caddie because he didn't call him before talking to Adam Scott?

Well,  what about this? Tiger hired Joe LaCava away from Dustin Johnson ... without talking to Dustin.

Butch Harmon, Tiger's former coach, said he was "shocked." But ... not surprised!
"The thing that bothered me the most was T.W. not calling Dustin and asking if he could talk to Joe," said Harmon, who used to work with Woods. "That's the way it's done. I'm a little disappointed with the way Tiger handled it. But I'm not surprised."
I'm more shocked that LaCava said yes. He would earn more money in years ahead with Johnson. That said, DJ plays more of a schedule, and as the story notes, is looking at taking Euro Tour membership, which would add to that.

No, no, no, #BudSelig! Don't ruin #MLB

While I'm grateful for the one wild card each of Major League Baseball's two leagues have, I do NOT want a second wild card. I also don't want all the other Bud Selig dreck that will go along with it.

I hate, hate, hate the idea of year-round interleague play, which two 15-team leagues will necessitate. I dislike lengthening the postseason, and halfway wonder if Bud will propose a neutral-site warm weather World Series location. If there is a second wild card, I detest a one-game play-in instead of a best-of-three series, even with evening out the leagues to 15 each.

Rather, there's two alternatives.

One is the Bob Costas idea, namely, getting rid of wild cards entirely and giving the best division winner a first-round bye.

The other is, keeping wild cards, but having two divisions in each league and two wild cards, both of whom could come from the same division. That would avoid the 15-team league parity issues, too.

#StlCards win; Pujols' last game?

First, it's great that a Cardinals' win, plus a Braves' loss, has St. Louis just one game out again in the National League wild card hunt.

But, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reminds us of an overtone, or undercurrent: Was this the last game with the Birds on Bats for Albert Pujols? (Feel free to voice your opinion in the two polls at right: What is his likelihood of moving on and, if he does, to where?)

My take? There's a 50-50 chance he leaves; if he does, I still see the Cubbies as the most likely landing spot.

SEC gives A&M official OK

Texas A&M officially has a new athletics home. And, it starts next year.

(That said, don't expect this to greatly change Aggie sports results. For an overview of what this means, go here. )

So, does OU renew its search? If so, where? Does the SEC look for Team 14? If so, whom?

I say OU stays put. SEC won't take it and Ok State. SEC doesn't stay put, though. Missouri or West Virginia is the most likely next candidate. But, I don't think it wants to go to 16 teams.

Of those two? West Virginia has a reason to leave the Big East, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh already running. More incentive, even, than Missouri. That said, the Mountaineers might be leery of having to stack up against SEC competition. On the other hand, it would help their recruiting.

Missouri? Will the Big 10 look at going beyond 12? I kind of doubt it. So, if the SEC doesn't come calling, it has to hope the Big Whatever can rebuild.

UPDATE: In a world of modern politics and the Internet, I guess it's not a surprise that "branding" as well as TV rights was an important factor in the move.

More on the problems of the death penalty

I can agree with at least some small-l libertarians on social issues, on occasion, outside the biggies of drug policy and sexual privacy/rights. Thomas Lucente has a good column here on what's wrong with the death penalty.

Here's my summary:

1. Eyewitness testimony is often fallible
2. Other testimony also involves jailhouse "snitches," who are definitely fallible
3. In states with elected prosecutors, especially "red" states, there's a "pander" motive to be tough
4. Ditto for states with elected judges.

At the same time, per the "cruel and unusual punishments" phrase of the U.S. Constitution, is life without parole in a federal Supermax much better? Maybe we should ask Leonard Peltier.

Obama worried about black apathy

It's clear that Barack Obama is worried not just about independents/centrists/moderates, but about his core, too.

Why else, especially in the face of recent complaints from one or two of its members, would he tell the Congressional Black Caucus, in essence, to "shut up and follow me, period"?
"If Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House," the caucus chairman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, recently told McClatchy Newspapers.
At the same time, Cleaver said he and other CBC leaders are performing a balancing act in keeping most of their complaints private. Well, sure, wouldn't want to upset America's first black Wall Street president, would we?

Reality? If black support for Obama in 2012 shows the same dropoff that it did for generic Democrats in 2010, he can probably write off Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, off the top of my head. And that changes everything right there.