August 03, 2017

Will the Turtle follow Boehner off the Congressional GOP dunghill?

The Turtle: gone at some point?
Last week's anti-Goldlocks events in the US Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn't get his caucus to pass skinny repeal, fat repeal or in-between repeal of Obamacare, made me wonder if he might be tired of playing King of the Senate Hill.

I don't see a House-like revolt, like former Speaker John Boehner was facing for months and months before he stepped down in favor of Paul Ryan. Mike Lee, about the closest thing to a pure Tea Party/Freedom Caucus type in the Senate, is a back-bencher. Rand Paul has a constituency of one, or perhaps a touch more. Ted Cruz has a constituency of barely one. I doubt that John Thune would try to vault one spot in the leadership, let alone John Barasso two. And I certainly don't see anybody lower down the Republican Conference making a move like that.

I think the Turtle is respected, if not always liked, among fellow Republicans. But, the Senate GOP, vs the House, may well see the fuller force of Trump's nuttery, in part because it has to deal with nominations and foreign policy, not just domestic issues.

The Turtle's in office up to January 2021. He could resign early, like Boehner. Or he could simply step down as majority leader.

That would leave current Majority Whip John Cornyn taking over. And, while there's been bits of speculation about Danny Goeb challenging him, and while Big John did face a spirited primary his last run (against a dog's breath of GOP foes), he's not up again until 2020 himself, if Mitch leaves early.

August 02, 2017

#Environmental scattershooting: Could the internal combustion engine kill itself off?

That's the focal point of this long read about how full electric vehicles may be "just around the corner" sooner than we think.

Here's the first main takeout from the piece:
To get a sense of what problems may occur, here is a list of the most common vehicle repairs from 2015:
1. Replacing an oxygen sensor — $249
2. Replacing a catalytic converter — $1,153
3. Replacing ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) — $390
4. Tightening or replacing a fuel cap — $15
5. Thermostat replacement — $210
6. Replacing ignition coil(s) — $236
7. Mass air flow sensor replacement — $382
8. Replacing spark plug wire(s) and spark plug(s) — $331
9. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve — $168
10. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purging solenoid — $184
I can directly relate to the first and seventh of those, and indirectly to some of the others. Never had to replace ignition coils, but have had to replace starters, and a starter isn’t the same on an electric as on an internal combustion engine.

And, that doesn't count other radiator-system problems, oil leaks and more.

From there, Seth Miller transitions to electric-drive car batteries. He notes that when the Prius came out, people wondered about battery lifespan. Turns out that's no problem.

As for charging? 

Well, the new Tesla Model S, in one option, goes more than 300 miles on a charge. The Chevy Bolt does more than 200. At least in more densely-populated areas, we're now talking about something more than commuter driving. Next will be to speed up the charge time. State rest areas, especially in sunnier climates, could maintain charging stations that are solar powered. California may well do this. Here in Tex-Ass, not on your nellie.

Will electrics jump past hybrids any time soon?

Maybe, maybe not.

With the gasoline half of the hybrid engine working less often, most of those top 10 repairs will have less frequency.

Some hybrids could make themselves better, though, especially among "full" hybrids.

Assuming it has no mechanical problems, Hyundai's Ioniq may — let's hope — nudge the Prius into using a direct injection engine on the gas side in the future. This will lighten the vehicle and further increase efficiency.

For non-communter driving, I'll still take that option at this time — a premium performance hybrid — over an all-electric. And, given Tesla's production history, I'll look for someone else to break the 300- mile charging barrier on an all-electric before I even consider buying a Tesla.

Will the combo of hybrids and electrics jump past all-gas cars anytime soon?

In Europe, possibly, with Norway (2025) Britain and France (both 2040) on record as phasing out internal combustion cars whether gas or diesel. More compact populations there will make it easy.

In the US, less likely. However, Miller argues, from film cameras and non-smartphone cell phones, that a "collapse" could happen fairly quickly.

And, speaking of Norway, Statoil, the state oil company, expects oil demand to peak by 2025. And, it's building a floating offshore wind farm.


And it needs to happen.

The latest news from the climate change desk?

Ghosts forests — caused by rising sea levels killing coastal trees with their salt water. And, they're even happening here in Texas, making them harder to deny.


Finally, look at this long read from the Guardian on how climate change skepticism became "skepticism" and now outright cynicism.

Shattered: Inside baseball book strikes out in first at bat

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed CampaignShattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan   Allen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

That strikeout occurs at the end of the introduction

The authors talk about a "Kremlin-based campaign" against her and the failure of the media to get Trump's tax return while it "scrutinized her every move."

The first is factually incorrect. The second is narratively incorrect.

The most we know the Kremlin did right now was to try to hack into Iowa and Arizona state voting offices. Other activities believed to have been done by Russian individuals have not been tied to the Kremlin. As in, could be individual hackers, etc. More important, yet, the best intelligence indicated the DNC email leaks given to Wikileaks had their physical transmission done in the US and not over the Internet. More than that we can't say for certain, but it seems pretty clear no Russkies were involved.

The media? Wrote plenty of stories about Trump's taxes. Remember David Cay Johnston? I do. Wrote plenty of other stories about him. That said, it's not a CRIME for a presidential candidate to hold tax returns and, if it were, the media is not a grand jury or a district attorney.

The rest of the book generally slouches toward Gomorrah from there. The first time Bernie's "white liberal" backers is used of him, it's semi-sneering. The book doesn't cover either Clinton's OR Sanders' failures in foreign policy issues. The problematic nature of the Clinton Foundation, and Hillary Clinton's lies about donors to it — including lies to President Obama — get unmentioned.

And, even the inside baseball doesn't have that much new stuff for regular campaign watchers, especially those who saw a moderate variant of 2008 repeating itself.

The book in general reads as clearly coming from an inside-the-Beltway pundit duo.

I read through to the end to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Nothing important new. Just nuances of Team Clinton fighting over the whole schmeer.

And, the book ignores the lawsuit filed against the DNC, the basics of which were surely available before it went to press.

View all my reviews

August 01, 2017

Brief political scattershooting on the national GOP

Don't get fooled by Jeff Flake, his new book, or its breathless excerpt at Politico.

He's still part of the problem.

And, I don't even need that link.

He voted for any and all versions of Trumpcare. Voted for all Obamacare repeals while Dear Leader was in office.

He is at least ahead of the curve on airing public laundry, but not a lot more than that.

That said, Barry Goldwater's original, which Flake plays off of, had its own bits of hypocrisy.

Barry wanted to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority, but privatize the BuRec, Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam? Not a word out of his mouth. Big.Fat.Hypocrite.


Also, Ken Buck wants to run from the murder scene even more hypocritically, with his "The GOP is dead" piece.

Gee, Ken, and not admit your part in the killing?

Besides you Freedom Caucus folks failing, the real failing is a failure to tell, and failure to face it. That's that people like some of those "entitlements," even in your largely white Congressional district. It's also that we don't need that much spending on our military.


Expect to see more rats scurrying off the ship in weeks and months ahead.

TX Progressives call out the #txlege and wait for #SineDie

The Texas Progressive Alliance puts skinny lattes over skinny repeals as it brings you this week's roundup, while waiting for Joe Straus to call Greg Abbott’s bluff and just “sign, die!”

Off the Kuff looks at July campaign finance reports for Democratic Congressional challengers.

SocraticGadfly, looking over the battle to (apparently) kill Trumpcare, notes that insurers were only temporary allies, not friends of America, and remain bloodsucking leeches who are part of why true national health care in America needs a British-style NHS.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme calls out the so called pro-life Texas Republicans for drastically increasing the maternal death rate.  Now, they are going for more deaths.

Democrats appear to be suffering another severe outbreak of Jill Stein Derangement Syndrome, reports PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value called upon all people to show up and fight back. APHV is part of

Ted at Jobsanger reminds us that Monday was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.

Lewisville Texan Journal discusses the must-do of home cleaning before vacation.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Texas Living Waters Project highlights the activism of Janice Bezanson, who advocates for wise water use over the construction of reservoirs.

The Texas Trib notes how Reps. Lamar Smith (shock me) and Randy Weber now claim The environmentalists are pawns of Putin.

The TSTA Blog is not impressed with the Senate's "fake" pay raise for teachers.

Transgriot wants to hear more black voices in the coverage of the bathroom bill.

Better Texas Blog criticized John Cornyn and Ted Cruz for letting the Obamacare repeal debacle proceed.

Equality Texas urges pushback on Greg Abbott's efforts to make Republicans sign on to the House bathroom bills.

Paradise in Hell has some sage words about highway driving.

The Rivard Report was on hand when candles were lit for immigrants killed in smuggling gone bad.

Transgriot wants to hear more black voices fighting the bathroom bill, and blames the state media for not reaching out.

(Editor’s note: If the blogger really expects semi-GOP sycophant Helen Giddings to have a backbone on an issue like this …)

Katie Walsh sets the record straight about the authenticity of Tex-Mex.

(Editor’s note — the author of this blog, having grown up in New Mexico, knows Tex-Mex is second best, while not necessarily disagreeing with everything Ms. Walsh says.)

July 31, 2017

Rall vs Popehat

Ted Rall with Greg Palast. Egocentric nuttery squared?
Ted Rall has sued the L.A. Times for canning him as a freelance columnist. The brouhaha goes back to when Ted was arrested for jaywalking in Los Angeles 16 years ago. This is his latest in-depth piece about the issue.

YES. A full 16 years ago. (Hold on to that.)

And, no, as far as I know, Ted never sued the LAPD nor the arresting cop, for false arrest, police brutality, or anything else. He did file a complaint which was found to be largely unfounded, according to other information. That "other information" includes that Rall's story has apparently changed over the years. (Hold on to that.)

Years later, he talked about the issue on an official L.A. Times blog. The powers that be talked to the LAPD, decided Ted's version wasn't true, and eventually canned him, after writing their own follow-ups, on the op-ed pages from what I understand.

Fact is that, even if you're not in a right-to-work state, matters of opinion are treated differently than straight news, first. Second, you can still be fired for what's deemed cause.

Rall eventually sued, as noted. Then complained about anti-SLAPP motions and other matters not going his way. And lost a lawyer.

(Update, Jan. 8, 2019: Rall is almost certainly lying, and bald-faced in it, when he claims in a new piece that "I'm defending myself against Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong and the LA Times' defamation as a favor to the LAPD." Real translation? Ted's GoFundMe has run out of steam and Ted can't afford an actual lawyer to do it for pay, and no lawyer is doing it on contingency. Slightly more generous translation? Ted's discombobulated. Slightly slightly more generous? Ted's mind is OK, but his use of the English language is discombobulated. I'll stay with Translation Door No. 1.)

Hanging out with Greg Palast, per the photo — regular readers of this blog know my take on Greg, down to my inviting his doppelgänger Greg AtLast onto this blog — leads me to less respect yet for Ted. Click the Greg Palast tag to see what I think of him, as well as see videos of Greg AtLast. (And, per Ted's Aug. 1 missive, Greg is actually involved in this case for him.)

Now, irony time.

The Popehat on the prowl 
Popehat, aka Ken White, for the first time in some time, recently put out his anti-SLAPP spotlight. He's looking for lawyers who can do pro bono anti-SLAPP as he's apparently done occasionally in the past himself.

Like Rall, right?

Not exactly.

Earlier this week, Ken thoroughly took Rall to the woodshed.

And I largely agree.

I don't think Ted has a legal leg to stand on.

Not even with a storied (superannuated, not actively practicing) lawyer (TV writer and Hollywood hangout) Roger Lowenstein as appellate attorney (for an appeal that won't happen unless his Kickstarter or GoFundMe gets a lot more contributions). He's so "storied" that Ted links to a 1991 (Yes!) NYT story (I see what I did there) about him.

And, per a comment at Ken's piece, I question why he's pushing the suit, if not for publicity value.

I agree with Rall's stance on many political issues more than the typical Popehat reader. (Ken's blog, while it often focuses on civil liberties issues, can otherwise have a mild libertarian tilt in general.)

But, Rall seems way wrong on this. Legally, journalistically and otherwise.

If the problem with the arrest was as bad as he now claims, he should have sued LAPD and/or the arresting cop long ago. Yeah, immunity issues would have made it tough for that to stick, but ... give it a try?

Otherwise, per Ken? Dude, it was a jaywalking charge, first of all. GET OVER IT! (And, you weren't falsely accused, legally. You were charged and fined, and you either never contested it, or you did and lost. That's legally guilty.) Also, the LAPD says they could never get a hold of you to finalize the complaint process.

 Besides the issue of whether Rall's current statements are correct or not — L.A. is known for being quite serious about jaywalking. I got a warning from a cop in Hollywood in the 1980s, when he claimed I had walked when the walk sign was red. I was visiting my mom, and she had warned me.

And, per other links at White's post, including one by a commenter noting other lawsuits Rall has filed in the past (four of the five counts were dismissed in the Danny Hellman suit, and while the fifth count was technically active as of 2009, per Hellman, it surely has gone away by now), I'm losing more and more respect for Rall. Add in Ted's own emails as another issue.

Ted, at best, seems to be moderately misconstruing this while also apparently leading his most devoted fanboys to think he's just a couple of steps from the poorhouse if he can't win the suit.

I still appreciate some of Ted's deliberate contrarianism, like when, after a week's hiatus, he continued to draw Dear Leader Obama with a purple face and other things. (That said, the number of Obamiacs who didn't know who he was might make him a bit less famous than Rall himself wishes and some Popehat denizens think.) And, though I disagreed at the time, and still partially disagree today, with his opposition to the Afghanistan invasion, he was principled and up-front about it. And, per Ken's first link about Ted, he may have overstated things, but some 9/11 widows DID come off looking like grifters, whether they were or not.

I don't defend everything, though. His attack on Pat Tillman was over the top, in part because Tillman specifically wanted only to fight in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

In general, he's not a bad cartoonist, whether this is an affected style or simply his best. As a columnist? He's a good cartoonist. Due to the nature of the beast, some ham-handedness is allowed. But, that doesn't translate well into punditry, and Ted often doesn't try to tame it.

Beyond that, even someone who decried his firing damns him with faint praise, while semi-throwing him under the bus:
He's an over-the-top guy who views his life as an unending drama with himself as its main character.
Otherwise, though, he's a "mainstream left-liberal," if that doesn't sound oxymoronic, in today's punditry universe. He's certainly to the right of Counterpunch, and possibly to the right of a place like Alternet.

And, that gets to publicity. There's plenty of other columnists, and editorial cartoonists, out there who #resist Trump. Ted may be trying to figure out a way to separate himself from the crowd.

Voila! Sue the Times for not having his back with the authoritarian LAPD. Then double down on the SLAPP suit, darkly hinting that the Times is "buying" the law.

Of course, that squares the Palast circle. The conspiracy angles are the type of stuff he often digs.

And, the way he does the overly-heavy, tedious explainers about how appellate courts are different from "regular" courts and such? Maybe Rall will start losing some of his fanboys.