SocraticGadfly: 11/7/04 - 11/14/04

November 13, 2004

Hot stove league

Enough politics for now. It’s time to talk baseball.

My beloved Cardinals got to their first World Series in the Tony LaRussa era, then fell flat on their faces.

(My theory is that Tony gets too wound up in tight postseason situations, kind of like current Carolina Tar Heel hoops coach Roy Williams did at Kansas, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, it is clear the Cards need some more arms in the starting rotation.

So, trade for Randy Johnson?

I say yes, if — if the D-backs sign him to a contract extension beforehand.

I don’t want to trade for a one-year Johnson, certainly not if the D-backs want young up-and-comer Dan Haren.

Second, it’s time to re-sign Renteria. He’s the No. 1 priority. Matheny is possibly the second one. (If Tomy Womack is not re-signed at second, Placido Polanco could be landed in the free-agent market.)

But Renteria is not a $10 million a year shortstop, let alone $12 million. Certainly not on a six-year deal. I don’t care what Miguel Tejada got last year. I might give Renteria $10 mil per for four years, but no more.

Matheny? Still a good pitch caller, but getting old for a backstop at 34. Only sign him at a pay cut, and no more than two years plus an option. Yadier Molina’s ready to step up as the starter, otherwise.

Womack? Only re-sign him at no more than this last year. No more than two years.

John Mabry should be re-signed for about the same as he made this last year. He plays corner infield and outfield well enough, and has a left-handed bat.

Matt Morris? Nice guy, but let him walk. IMO, he needs or will need shoulder surgery. That’s the only thing I can think of to explain his slowly disappearing fastball speed.

Woody Williams? A cheap one-year plus option deal would be OK. Otherwise, let him go, too.

Steve Kline? A lefty spot reliever is always good to have. However, he’s pretty much a one-out guy. The Birds should let him walk if he gets pricey.

New guys

I think the Cards should take a serious look at Pavano. That’s whether or not they can swing a trade for the Unit.

Scientific theories and creationist obscurantism

Yes, evolution is a “theory” in biology.

Gravity is just a “theory” in physics. Should we place further warning stickers on high school textbooks about that, especially if this “theory” interferes with any fundamentalist Christian belief?

Better yet, quantum mechanics is just a “theory.” (Albeit one that, in its potential philosophical implications, could be seen as more radically challenging to even non-conservative Christianity than evolution.

That quantum “theory,” though, is what led to the production of silicon chips with quantum electric “holes” that allow Christian fundamentalists to run blogs, write screeds, and otherwise generally be a nuisance.

So, if fundamentalists really want to be consistent to their own beliefs, they ought to stop using computers.

Or, for that matter, anything electrical, since quantum “theory” explains atomic structure and the hows and whys of electricity.

A question for Gonzales

Concerning people who tried to cross illegally from Mexico about the time of Pancho Villa, it would be interesting to ask a hypothetical question about whether he thinks that they should have been protected by Geneva Conventions if they were available.

Just something to stir the pot a bit for our would-be first Hispanic AG.

November 12, 2004

Cockburn, Clinton, Sharon and Arafat

I don’t often agree with him, but Cockburn quotes well from the London Observer:

"If Palestinians were black, Israel would now be a pariah state subject to economic sanctions led by the United States.”

Anyway, we know the only reason Clinton regrets Arafat didn’t kowtow enough to Israel is because it hurt Clinton’s “legacy.”

Maybe if Clinton had blown Ariel Sharon in the Oval Office, we’d have the type of peace Arik actually wants.
I’d like to see people like Markos of The Daily Kos do better than Arafat did under Arafat’s circumstances before consigning him to one of the lower circles of Dante’s Hell.

No, Arafat wasn't a saint. He wasn't even a nice guy. For that matter, he may well not have been the best leader the Palestinians could have had. But he was certainly not the worst.

In any case, it takes two to tango or tangle; Palestinian atrocities have been worse, but Israel's hands and minds aren't blood-free either.

November 11, 2004

Give Me a Break, John Stossel, you're wrong again

In Give Me a Break, John Stossel, crusading libertarian, is back.

Actually, I agree with a fair amount of his observations about problems in the regulatory state. I especially agree on civil liberties issues.

But, on economic issues, I strongly disagree with his solution and the philosophy behind it.

Stossel’s laissez-faire view of capitalism traces straight back to Adam Smith and Wealth of Nations. Smith, a Deist philosopher writing in the midst of the Scottish Enlightenment, brought two big but usually unexamined philosophical presumptions to his economic theory.

1. An orderly, organized Deistic God created this universe to run in a mechanical, orderly, clockwork fashion.

2. As part of that organization, humans are inherently rational creatures.

Well, other than eco-libertarian like Stossel, few people believe either one of those things today.

First of all, Christians, whether conservative evangelical, moderate mainline Protestant, or Catholic, would at least question No. 1, in my opinion. Truly liberal Christians, freethinkers from other religions and most secularists reject it outright.

(I do have some atheist libertarian acquaintances; but the closest of them are even more blind-faith on these issues than people with a religious background and, as far as I know, refuse to perform such self-examination.)

Second, modern clinical study of mass psychology and related disciplines will tell us, and has shown us, that purchasing decisions are 80 percent emotion and 20 percent rational thought at best.

So, while Stossel may be right on examining some of the problems with the modern regulatory state — yes, big corporations do co-opt regulatory agencies — his solutions, and the theory behind them, are all wet.

That's because of belief 3, a subpoint of belief 1.

3. An unregulated market will naturally, logically and organizedly act for the benefit of all.

As best as I can articulate it, the wrongly-held belief here is in a Deist version of a collective unconscious or something similar; it's also why many people, including otherwise intelligent ones, falsely ascribe “purpose” to evolution.

There is no person/being/force that has built in a purpose to a market economy; there is no Aristotelean "final cause" that is built in to the system.

Instead, the biggest players in a market economy will always work to run it to their best interest.

In short, modern economic libertarianism has confounded the most unsubstantiable parts of Smith’s underlying philosophy with a 20th-century flavored Platonic-type, or Randian, idealism. Hence, libertarianism as religious cult.

November 10, 2004

Why I am an environmentalist

And why I belong to the Sierra Club

I went to the Dallas Sierra Club’s Nov. 10 meeting because of a great program about Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

The Wind Rivers are southeast of Yellowstone and a place I am considering visiting on vacation next summer. To see why they’re so awe-inspiring in their ruggedness, click here for a Google link to some great pictures.

Unfortunately, not all of the Wind Rivers are in federally designated wilderness. That’s why we have to keep fighting the Bush Administration against renewed efforts to abolish the National Forest Service’s roadless rule, against easy green-lighting of oil and gas exploration in Wyoming by the Bureau of Land Management and more.

Contact your Senators about the Gonzales nomination

The ACLU correctly calls for a:

Full and thorough Senate confirmation process that scrutinizes Mr. Gonzales’ positions on key civil liberties and human rights issues. Particular attention should be devoted to exploring Mr. Gonzales’ proposed policies on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the designation of United States citizens as enemy combatants and reproductive rights.
Mr. Gonzales should be queried, moreover, on his January 25, 2002 memo, authored in his capacity as White House counsel, which described certain legal protections guaranteed in the Geneva Conventions to persons captured during military hostilities as “obsolete” and “quaint.”

November 09, 2004

Target-marketed sliced and diced, part 2

As PBS explained on Frontline (see post below), marketers and advertisers are slicing our society into ever-narrower segments.

And it is not just marketers, it is also political parties and candidates.

One of Frontline’s interview segments was with Republican pollster – and more – Frank Luntz.

Luntz has to be considered a pioneer in “phrase packaging” in politics, through such sleight of hand as relabeling the “estate tax” as the “death tax” and “global warming” as “climate change.”

But, Luntz could not have succeeded at this if the media didn’t let him, through laziness if nothing else, and the Democratic Party didn’t do the same thing.

If you can find it being rebroadcast, or take the time to go to the Frontline website, it’s well worth a look. The segment on data-mining company Acxiom is also very good.

Gay rights, moral values and the 2004 election

On the biggie, gay rights, I think it's partially a question of better “framing,” to talk about an issue that Kos blogged about, last Friday I believe.

The typical conservative probably has a stereotypical image of gays that comes straight off a Queer Nation or Act Up gay parade march. My straight person’s take is that these two groups have created far more bad PR for the issue than the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think that's part of the problem.

Target-marketed sliced and diced to death

Are we being mass-marketed to death? And at the cost of an increasingly sliced, diced, minced and julienned society?

As Wired and PBS explain, computerized number crunching, combined with ever-increasing collection of shopping information through shoppers cards, checkout address collection and other methodology.

The fragmentation worry is real, according to Wired. Data-mining company Acxiom has 70 different consumer categories such as “shooting star.”

This has political implications, too. The 2004 target-marketed political advocacy ad bombardment will get more and more focused in the future, if in any way possible.

November 08, 2004

The Dallas Morning News veers right on Cabinet ideas

The News apparently thinks Nov. 2 was a Bush mandate, based on its Nov. 7 editorial suggesting Bush second-term Cabinet picks. By starting with John Negroponte, rather than the talked-up consensus pick, John Danforth, the News showed just how Cro-Magnon it still is at times.

Here's my reply to editorial page editor Keven Ann Willey.

1. Negroponte at State? The man who says he knew nothing about Central American right-wing killers when he was down there? I'd pay a Senator to mention "School of the Americas" during his confirmation hearing.
And why, when so many people are talking more multilateralist sounding Danforth, would you even mention Negroponte, who is certainly not known as that?
2. Rice at Defense? She should, rightfully, get flayed over Iraq, and her pre 9/11 failures. She's not shown enough bureaucratic or managerial skills, either.
Your "one-two punch" would likely leave many foreign leaders shaking their heads.
3. Rudy for Homeland Security? The civil liberties minded would bring up Louima or Diallo. I'd bring up the "the troops lost the HDX" comment, too.
4. Rudman would be good as intelligence czar. Who’d be better but will never get appointed by Bush: Richard Clarke.
5. Gonzales as AG? Not after his "you can ignore the Genevas and rewrite international law" legal memos to Bush. Horrible choice.
6. Pete Peterson would be great at NEC, but his advice to Bush would go down a black hole, unfortunately, unless Senate Republicans could get him to leak enough to lean on Bush.

November 07, 2004

We’re not the elitists

Amen to Michael Kinsley.

It’s the “red staters,” not us, that are liberal and elite.

As Kinsley explains, it’s not we progressives claiming we’ve got an inerrant pipeline on moral values.