Saturday, April 23, 2005


I've been slightly out-of-touch with DMTC lately, but I understand a milestone was recently passed concerning New Theater financing "Plan B."

Let's go: I'm getting impatient!
Rumors of My Passing...

...have been greatly exaggerated - I now have an entry at the Political Graveyard!

Plus, for reasons that elude me, my name was sent to a comet:
As a public outreach effort, over 1 million names were collected and placed on the STARDUST spacecraft,which will visit Comet Wild 2 in 2004.
Funny, I don't remember this cometary outreach effort (really reaching way out). I wonder if it was me or someone else with my name?

Must be nice having lobbyist friends. All of this violates House ethics rules, of course:
The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.
Greenspan's Deficit Chickens....

....are all coming home to roost:
"I don't doubt, at the end of the day," that taxes will go up in any plan to cut the federal budget deficit, Greenspan told the Senate Budget Committee.

But he quickly added that there is "no way you can raise taxes enough" to cover future spending commitments, including Social Security and Medicare. Greenspan warned that tax increases would hold down economic growth and made clear he would prefer spending cuts to tax increases.
Greenspan is wrong, of course, on the ineffectiveness of raising taxes. There is a lot of lightly-taxed money in the higher-income tax brackets these days. Effective action on health care costs PLUS tax increases on the rich would arrest or reverse the deficit's growth.
Possibly providing ammunition to tax-cut opponents, Greenspan said his support for President Bush's 2001 tax-cut package played a part in turning the federal budget from surplus to record-setting deficits.

With Republicans in Congress declaring in 2001 that they had Greenspan's support, they enacted a $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut plan. Congress then passed further tax cuts each of the next two years. Democrats blame the cuts for deficits that have skyrocketed to more than $400 billion a year.

Republicans contend that the cuts helped the troubled economy and staved off a more painful downturn.
Finally, reality is catching up to Greenspan! The downturn may have been blunted by the tax cuts, but the long-term harm to the economy may more than outweigh the benefit.
In his Capitol Hill appearance Thursday, Greenspan for the first time publicly defended himself against critics who put blame on him for the expanding deficits.

It is "frankly unfair" to blame him for the deficits, Greenspan said, because Congress decided to "read half my testimony and discard the rest."

He said that tax-cut advocates ignored his warning in 2001 that forecasts for higher surpluses might be wrong. Congress also ignored his proposal for "trigger" recommendations that would have limited the tax cuts if spending targets were not met and the deficit began to soar, Greenspan said.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., reminded Greenspan that he is well versed in how Congress works and should have been aware that Congress would skip the triggers.

"I plead guilty to that," Greenspan said. "I did not intend it that way."
That's not good enough, Mr. Greenspan. You knew perfectly well what was going to happen. People warned you about it at the time. You pulled the trigger anyway!
The Fed chairman said that controlling government spending is an especially urgent matter because some 76 million baby boomers will begin leaving the work force soon. Then there won't be enough tax revenue coming in for the federal government to meet retirement and health promises to boomers.

"Unless that trend is reversed," Greenspan warned, "at some point these deficits would cause the economy to stagnate or worse."

..."The federal budget deficit is on an unsustainable path, in which large deficits result in rising interest rates and ever-growing interest payments that augment deficits in future years," Greenspan testified.

While the "ramp-up" in spending for defense and homeland security is not expected to continue indefinitely, Greenspan said, he foresees increasing national debt unless the government cuts spending.

The government may have promised too much to its aging population, Greenspan said.

"I fear that we may have already committed more physical resources to the baby-boom generation in its retirement years than our economy has the capacity to deliver," he said.
It's high time Greenspan-the-Fool realized that Congress and the nation are absolutely on the hook for Social Security costs. Everyone should plan accordingly, and not follow Greenspan's failed 2001 example. And his Chicken-Little fear of the coming Baby-Boomer retirement is ridiculous. The money will be there - if he's willing to tax the rich to get it!
Plame News Blog

Here's a good blog for news regarding the increasingly-baroque Valerie Plame scandal.
Clever! Clever!

Margo Lucero and her innovation:
JEFFERSON COUNTY - Seventh-grader Bailey Pierce, hand pressed against her heart, was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when the voice over the intercom said something that stopped her cold.

"One nation, under 'your belief system.' "

Bailey said that guidance counselor Margo Lucero substituted the phrase for "under God" while leading the morning pledge at Everitt Middle School on Wednesday.

Bailey said the incident shocked her and her classmates, many of whom stopped in mid-sentence and exchanged bewildered looks.
As Kevin Drum notes:
And so the worm turns. After all, if it's OK for biology teachers to decline to teach evolution and for pharmacists to refuse to dispense certain medications, why shouldn't teachers have the right to modify the pledge for reasons of personal conscience?

It's quite a little rabbit hole we have here, don't we?

Friday, April 22, 2005


You just knew this would happen eventually. CPB is stealthily carrying out a right-wing coup against PBS:
"We don't want to be alarmist, but I would be less than honest if I said there wasn't concern here," said one senior executive at PBS, who insisted on anonymity because CPB provides about 10 percent of its annual budget. "When you put it all together, a pattern starts to emerge."

A senior FCC official, who would not speak for attribution because he must rule on issues affecting public broadcasting, went further, saying CPB "is engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS. It's almost like a right-wing coup. It appears to be orchestrated."
A Trend?

Boy, this would be nice if it continues:
The credit card industry presumes, based on happy experience, that Americans will borrow more money each quarter to support their spending habits, regardless of the direction of interest rates, and that enough consumers will be happy simply to pay off just enough debt to allow them to borrow more. But last quarter MBNA, to its apparent shock, found that "results were further impacted by unexpectedly high payment volumes from U.S. credit card customers," and that "the payment volumes were particularly higher on accounts with higher interest rates."
Accu-Weather Cronyism

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's bill is the worst kind of protectionism! Private weather companies have to add value to their products in order to be worth the bother, but now they're insisting on getting paid without bothering to innovate. The trouble is that the Weather Service is the only organization that performs its particular core function, and if that effort is hobbled, everyone, including the private companies, will suffer.
"The weather service proved so instrumental and popular and helpful in the wake of the hurricanes. How can you make an argument that we should pull it off the Net now?" said (Florida Senator Ben) Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin. "What are you going to do, charge hurricane victims to go online, or give them a pop-up ad?"

But Barry Myers, AccuWeather's executive vice president, said the bill would improve public safety by making the weather service devote its efforts to hurricanes, tsunamis and other dangers, rather than duplicating products already available from the private sector.

"The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people's lives and property," said Myers, whose company is based in State College, Pa. Instead, he said, "It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every day, producing forecasts of 'warm and sunny.'"
One trouble with the weather is that it is absolutely everywhere. In order to be able to focus on its core mission of storm forecasts, the National Weather Service (NWS) ALSO has to know where it is 'warm and sunny'. In weather forecasting, if you don't know a little bit about what the weather is everywhere, you'll have a poor idea of what the weather is in any one particular spot.
...NOAA has taken no position on (Senator Santorum's) bill. But Ed Johnson, the weather service's director of strategic planning and policy, said his agency is expanding its online offerings to serve the public.

"If someone claims that our core mission is just warning the public of hazardous conditions, that's really impossible unless we forecast the weather all the time," Johnson said. "You don't just plug in your clock when you want to know what time it is."

Myers argued that nearly all consumers get their weather information for free through commercial providers, including the news media, so there's little reason for the federal agency to duplicate their efforts.

"Do you really need that from the NOAA Web site?" he asked.
This Myers is a slimy bastard. He's got the process backwards, and he knows it perfectly well. Commercial providers duplicate federal agency efforts, and try to add value. For example, your radio station meteorologist usually just parrots NWS forecasts, but provides it more conveniently, through your radio, so you can more easily access the information.
Another supporter of the weather service's efforts, Tallahassee database analyst John Simpson, said the plethora of free data becoming available could eventually fuel a new industry of small and emerging companies that would repackage the information for public consumption. He said a similar explosion occurred in the 1990s, when corporations' federal securities filings became freely available on the Web. Shutting off the information flow would stifle that innovation and solidify the major weather companies' hold on the market, Simpson said.
Accu-weather is part of that information explosion. Now they are trying to consolidate monopoly-like control to keep competitors out.
Santorum's bill also would require the weather service to provide "simultaneous and equal access" to its information.

That would prevent weather service employees from favoring some news outlets over others, which Santorum and Myers said has happened in some markets. But it also could end the common practice of giving one-on-one interviews to individual reporters who have questions about storms, droughts or other weather patterns.

"What we want is to make sure that whatever information is provided to one source is provided to all," Myers said.

But Johnson said it's important to answer reporters' questions so the public receives accurate information — especially when lives are at stake.

"We are not interested in turning off our telephones," Johnson said. "I would be concerned that that would actually be dangerous."
Me-thinks this flawed Accu-Weather business model of repackaging data already generated at taxpayer expense is what really needs looking at. Protectionist toadies exploiting political access! Republican hypocrisy in action! Gag!

Thursday, April 21, 2005


John Bolton:
In July 2003, Bolton attracted widespread attention with a speech in South Korea in which he leveled repeated personal attacks on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Some U.S. diplomats feared the speech would lead North Korea to pull out of international talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

In testimony last week, Bolton implied that Thomas Hubbard, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, approved in advance of the speech and that he thanked Bolton for his comments afterward.

But Hubbard, a career diplomat who was Bush's ambassador to South Korea from 2001 to 2004, contradicted Bolton, saying in an interview that he did not express gratitude for the speech and disapproved of it.

"I didn't approve personally of the tone of the speech, and had urged him to tone it down," said Hubbard, who has now retired from the foreign service.

Bolton testified that the night before the speech, Hubbard "reviewed it one last time and made a few more changes." After the speech, Bolton testified that Hubbard praised him.

"And I can tell you what our ambassador to South Korea, Tom Hubbard, said after the speech," Bolton said under questioning by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I. "He said: 'Thanks a lot for that speech, John, it will help us a lot out here.' "

Hubbard disputed Bolton's testimony.

Before the speech, Hubbard said he had urged Bolton and his staff "to tone it down, on grounds that it would be counterproductive to getting the North Koreans to the negotiating table."

But, "He rejected that suggestion," Hubbard said.

He said Bolton did agree to accept some recommendations on factual errors, and on "some phrases that I thought would be taken badly or misunderstood by the South Koreans." When he offered thanks, it was for those changes, Hubbard said."

It's a gross exaggeration to elevate that to praise for the entire speech, and approval of it," Hubbard added.

Hubbard, who earlier had served as U.S. ambassador to the Philippines during the Clinton administration, said he had spoken with several senators and Senate staff members to set the record straight about his views on the Bolton address. His disagreement with Bolton's testimony was first reported this week on Newsweek's Web site.
The Return of that Nixon Droid

Who might run for the New York Senate seat held by Hillary Clinton next year? Oh no! Could it be? Yes it is! Quick! I need my Lawrence Welk fix!:
Two potentially strong opponents - Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki, both formidable fund-raisers, have shown little interest in running against her in 2006. At this point, the most likely Republican candidate is Edward F. Cox, a lawyer who is the son-in-law of President Nixon.
Connecting The Dots

The Republicans' shell game:
Treasury Secretary John Snow explicitly linked the administration's efforts to cut the deficit to the push to partially phase-out Social Security. The logic of that statement points to only one conclusion: the deficits the administration has run up with upper-income tax cuts will be reduced by benefit cuts in Social Security.
Cut To "The Chase"

"The Chase," from Deborah McMillion-Nering (I took this photo a bit from the side, so the width appears slightly shorter than it should):

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ratzinger and the Jews

From an interview with Rabbi David Rosen, who was a "key figure in the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican in 1993," in Haaretz:
Ratzinger, who made several quiet visits to Israel before the establishment of diplomatic ties, wrote the introduction to what Rosen calls the "most important" document on Christian-Jewish relations to come out of the Pontifical Biblical Studies Commission, the Vatican body that focuses on biblical studies. The document, which was issued under Ratzinger's authority, deals with the central place of the Jewish people and of religious Jewish texts in Christian teaching.

In the document, Ratzinger seeks to tackle the Jews' refusal to accept Jesus as the messiah and Judaism's insistence that the messiah has not yet come.

"He argued that this position is also part of the divine plan," explains Rosen, who now heads the American Jewish Committee's Interreligious Affairs department, "and the fact Jews don't accept Jesus must not be seen as an act of rejecting God, but as part of God's plan to remind the world that peace and salvation for all humanity has not yet come. This is amazing. He took something that has been the source of major condemnation of Judaism and the Jewish people down the ages and twisted it into something of a positive theological nature."

Although it appears to date from the late 70's, Young Dancer magazine is now serializing Ariyoshi Kyoko's manga, "Swan". It's really quite nice: full of technical ballet details and it has a sweet story line. Hooray for Japanese manga!

"That Giant Mexican Head....

...Is Going To Eat Us All," and other favorite tales.
Maybe an Interesting Blog

Just paging through this LANL blog, I recognize the name Doug Beason: we used to work together at the Kirtland AFB Weapons Lab in Albuquerque, NM, from 1977-1980. He was one of the hot Air Force Academy grads and I was a lowly UNM "Stay-in-School" student...

First it was that magical Jesus-on-a-tortilla in Lake Arthur New Mexico, and now this:
CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- A steady stream of the faithful and the curious, many carrying flowers and candles, have flocked to an expressway underpass for a view of a yellow and white stain on a concrete wall that some believe is an image of the Virgin Mary.

...."We believe it's a miracle," said Elbia Tello, 42. "We have faith, and we can see her face."

....The stain is likely the result of salt run-off, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The agency does not plan to scrub it off the wall. "We're treating this just like we treat any type of roadside memorial," said IDOT spokesman Mike Claffey. "We have no plans to clean this site."
Plateau Peril

People prepare for trouble in Southern Utah:
Snow has accumulated to as much as 372 percent of normal at some higher elevations, nearly 13 feet deep at some spots on the high sprawling plateau above Cedar City, home of more than 20,000 people and Southern Utah University.

...Crews are working to channel the meandering Virgin River at St. George, a booming retirement community. Springdale, in the scenic canyon just outside Zion National Park, sits almost entirely on the river’s floodplain. Downstream, crews at Mesquite, Nev., failed in an attempt to coax the river back into an old channel and away from eroded banks that in January forced dozens from their homes.
When all that snow melts, it might get ugly. The canyons are steep and narrow off those plateaus in southern Utah and northern Arizona!

Update: Flooding issues in Alaska too!:
McClure said some of the most impressive measurements came along the Yukon River near the Dalton Highway crossing, where water content was measured at 180 to 190 percent above normal, and in the White Mountains, where water content was 150 percent.
Fuzzy Wuzzy Iz My Eyes

Went to the optometrist today. Last visit was in 2001. That visit was fine: Marina Campana said nice things about the new frames. This time, who knows? My eyes are now all dilated and irritable from those yellow drops they put in them. Plus, there's a big yellow orb in the sky that makes my eyes water whenever I look outside.

Dr. S. suggested bifocals: I suggested two separate pairs of glasses instead. Dr. S. looked at the scars from the 1994 retinal reattachment surgery on the left eye and suggested I get the other Dr. S. at Mercy Hospital to look at his decade-old surgical handiwork just to make sure everything is the way he'd like to see it. That's probably a good idea.

That eye surgery in 1994 was sure interesting. They put me under with sodium pentathol ("truth serum") . When I woke up in the recovery room, everybody there was laughing. I asked what was so funny, and everyone said, "oh, nothing!" Then they did laser spot-welding on the right eye. 500 welds in 10 brilliantly yellow-green minutes. Afterwards, all I could see was purple everywhere!

Forgot about ordering new contact lenses. I'll need to get those ordered next week!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Climate and Brave Sir James Inhofe

When knowledge reared its ugly head, brave Sir James misrepresented.
Oxyrhynchus Papyri

This treasure trove is now being opened, to great excitement:
Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia.
Pope Benedict XVI

From the New York Times:

photo credit: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Gabe, my traditionalist Catholic friend, is ecstatic at the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope. Many blessings on the new Pope, Benedict XVI!

From my Deborah McMillion-Nering collection:

FDR's Second Bill of Rights

Remembering a more-noble time:

Roosevelt referred to his proposals in that speech as "a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed."Among these rights, he said, are:

  • "The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
  • "The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
  • "The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
  • "The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
  • "The right of every family to a decent home.
  • "The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
  • "The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.
  • "The right to a good education."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ownership and Inheritability

On today's Wall Street Journal editorial page, Ed Crane, President of the Cato Institute, asks why Paul Krugman of the New York Times, and by extension all liberal commentators, avoid certain questions when discussing Social Security:
Not once in his rants does he address the issues of ownership and inheritability. Indeed, opponents of personal accounts shy away from those issues like a vampire from the cross.
Crane urges pressing these two points when Social Security reform is discussed. Presumably these are the most salient advantages of personal accounts.

Well, OK, fair enough, let's ask about these questions. Ownership implies control. Who could possibly be against control over one's destiny? Well, the Bush Administration, among many. The people who own personal retirement accounts own all the risk, but will not be able to move money, at will, into the hot stocks of the day. No day-trading with these stocks! The apportionment of money will be stringently regulated. People will be asked to forgo a certain benefit, for a degree of uncertainty, heavy fees, and loss of control. Some great trade that is!

And what's the big deal about inheritability? All new workers have to do to get a certain benefit of some sort is to get Social Security numbers and pay taxes. It's like having a big, extended family concerned about your future! And Congress is absolutely on the hook to get you the money! An inheritance you work for.

Social Security functions as social insurance, not as investment. Are there any insurance programs that you know of that allow your heirs to inherit your policies? If your dad is a doctor, should you inherit his malpractice coverage?

In any event, one can always supplement one's retirement with personal investments.

Meanwhile, Republicans conspire away with various bait-and-switch techniques to break Democratic will:
The emerging Bush-Senate Republican strategy is to entice Democrats into the debate by first focusing on shoring up the system and then selling the private accounts as the smartest way to ease the pain of benefit cuts. All of this relies on Grassley's ability -- and willingness -- to push ahead on an issue some Republicans would rather avoid.
Republicans like Crane should just give up with Social Security "piratization."
The Man-Woman Thing

Before too much time passes, I'd like to note Warren Farrell's new book "Why Men Earn More." Warren Farrell attributes the pay gap between men and women mostly due to different hours-per-week the sexes work, as well as the absence of women in difficult or hazardous occupations. Farrell was interviewed by Claudia Deutsch of the New York Times on February 27th. Farrell also appeared on C-SPAN in late February, speaking (I believe) to Stanford's (influential and conservative) Hoover Institution.

I remember Warren Farrell as one of the 135 California Recall gubernatorial candidates, however. Farrell was an exponent of what might be called the Men's Movement, or the Father's Movement - sort of an echo of feminism, stressing the needs of men going through divorce: for example, to retain visitation rights to children, to cope with demands of alimony in a rational manner, etc. Farrell's platform promoted "legislation to force courts to grant divorced fathers equal time with their children."

William "B.J." Wagener, host and producer of a television program called "On Second Thought," and who was so helpful getting media coverage for the alternative candidates, was one of Farrell's biggest supporters, but Wagener seemed to have *issues* regarding divorce. I wondered whether Farrell had *issues* as well. In Deutch's NY Times interview, Farrell is described as stressing calm objectivity regarding men's/women's issues:
Although he has written extensively about issues like sexual harrassment and fatherhood, he says he is not spurred on by personal experiences. "I've always been motivated to stop people from doing dysfunctional things," he said.
Still, with groups like "Fathers Mentoring Fathers" out there, trying to address the needs of divorced men through a judicial system guaranteed to lead to frustration, I can't help but wonder.... It takes a lot of work to write a book. How entwined are Farrell's personal experiences with his research? Is it possible for anyone EVER to separate the personal from the political? SHOULD one separate the personal from the political, and if so, how? Is advocacy an adequate response to dysfunction?

(I suppose I could just send an E-Mail and ask his response, but it's more fun to pose the questions unanswered.)
Backsliding Democrats

I saw the stupid AP story too. I hope it's just chaff to confuse Republicans. For the first time, Democrats have a victory, and these 'strategists' want to throw it away. That's what Kerry was for: plucking defeat from the jaws of victory. Let's not go there again.
Rogue Wave

Geophysicists have discovered these huge waves aren't so rare. The cruise ship passengers were lucky - this time:
"The ship was hit by a freak wave that caused two windows to break in two different cabins," Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement. It said 62 cabins were flooded and four passengers had cuts and bruises. The wave reached as high as deck 10 on the ship, company spokeswoman Susan Robison said Sunday.