Friday, July 25, 2008


Save our Constitution on August 8

Readers of have witnessed my concern about our eroding Constitution, and, specifically, my disappointment at the passage of a FISA bill that lets the telcos off the hook for illegally spying on us and also expands warrantless spying on our networked information. The net effect is that the Internet becomes a less democratic, less innovation-friendly, less people-oriented infrastructure.

Glenn Greenwald has done heroic work, explaining the meaning of each event and proposal as the struggle to save our Constitution continues. Greenwald's July 14 piece details eight other incidents, in addition to the FISA debacle, where the new Democrat-led Congress, which we elected specifically to counteract Bush abuses, has repeatedly caved. Do you think this explains why Congress has a whopping 9% approval rating from the American public? I do.

The battle didn't end when the FISA bill passed. The next step is the bipartisan August 8th money bomb. I've pledged. Please consider pledging too, gentle readers. Even if you only give five bucks, you're voting in a way that demonstrably matters in this system. A million of us can give those rich donors a run for their money.

Greenwald explains
Conveying to Democrats that you will support all of them no matter what they do, no matter how egregiously they trample on your values, only ensures that they will ignore your political priorities and values even more.
I was going to give this money to the Obama campaign, but I think it will do so much more good to give it to the August 8 effort.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008


Shocking New Yorker Cover

I am shocked and saddened by the New Yorker cover for its July 28th issue. I can't tell who's stereotyped more, the summer vacationers (playing ignorant and innocent, wouldn't you know!) or the oppressed crustacean-Americans shinnying down the knotted kitchen towel to make their getaway before they're cruelly boiled alive. (Did you notice that the lobsters are depicted as red even before they're boiled? Did you see the gauchist guy on the porch drinking red wine in anticipation of a seafood dinner?) Even the shingles look a bit too curled. For shame, New Yorker, for shame. This isn't satire, it isn't even humor. It is insult.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Quote of Note: Nouri al-Maliki

"[US troops should leave Iraq a]s soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in interview with Der Spiegel July 19. [link]

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Quote of Note: Phil Gramm

"In economics, we define labor exploitation as paying people less than their marginal value product. I recently told Ed Whitacre [former CEO of AT&T, who retired with a $158 million pay package] he was probably the most exploited worker in American history because he took Southwestern Bell, which was the smallest of the former Bell companies, and he turned it into the dominant phone company on earth. His severance package should have been billions."

Phil Gramm, John McCain's economics advisor, in June 28 WSJ interview. [link]

[The rest of the interview is just as breath-takingly bloodless. Guess Gramm and company have not gotten the memo yet.]

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Fact-Check Follies

Dave Farber published a link to on his IP list. Looks like a lot of good stuff there on political lies, etc., but the one fascinating "fact" article that got my attention said that trains can move 438 tons one mile on a gallon of fuel. I dug into it, and it came up short. Factcheck documented the 438 ton-miles per gallon claim nicely. So hey, it's a fact.

But then they try to frame this fact in the context of railroads versus trucks, and they completely fail to answer the question, "How many ton-miles per gallon for a truck?" They quote trucking association executives, "fair and balanced" news-story style, but never address the basic question.

So I did a little Googling and some back-of-the-envelope . . . the max legal gross weight of a truck in the US is 40 tons. The consensus of several sources is that an 18-wheeler gets six miles per gallon on a good day with a following wind (though the average seems to be more like four). So, assuming
1) All of that 40 tons is cargo,
2) trucks are always loaded to the max and never deadhead,
3) trucks get 6 mpg average,
then trucks move 240 tons on a gallon of fuel.

In other words, even when truck efficiency assumptions are absurdly optimistic, trucks only get about half the cargo moving efficiency of rail.

Some more realistic assumptions:
1) 30 tons of cargo to max gross (subtracting empty weight of truck)
2) with light loads, deadheading, et cetera, average load is 75% of max gross
3) 4 MPG
then more realistically, trucks move 90 tons one mile on a gallon of gas diesel.

OK, so the "fact" behind the original factcheck article is that trains are something like five times more efficient than trucks. Factcheck missed this altogether. I wonder how they *really* do on the candidates?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008


Obama lead falls to three points

A recent Newsweek poll shows Obama's lead over McCain is down to 3%, 44-41.

No wonder, considering this LA Times story.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The Constitution Dies Tomorrow


Obama's run to the center, OK, you gotta do whatcha gotta do. I'm not happy, but OK. I'm votin for ya. I don't understand politix, but hey, I'm votin for ya.

HOWEVER . . . when only 15 (+/-) senators support what's written in black and white in the superseding Law of our Land . . . ?

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been Timothy B. Lee's excellent Ars Technica analysis.

Glenn Greenwald has also done hero's work over at Salon.

I'm hoping against hope that there's another rabbit in that hat . . .

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