SocraticGadfly: 7/10/05 - 7/17/05

July 16, 2005

The EU does right by SUVs

The European Commission has stiffened pollution standards for new vehicles, set to begin in 2008. And, curb weights of more than 2,500 kg (5,500 pounds) don’t merit special exemptions.

Now, if the Terminator is done with his fitness mags, maybe he can push for this in at least one American state — or are his precious Hummers still too close to his heart?

Tom Nutsack, the DLC’s pre-groomed presidential candidate?

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has been named the new head of the Democratic Leadership Council, the AP reports .

And DLC founder and would be kingmaker Al From is beaming like a proud daddy:

DLC founder Al From said the DLC post will give new national credibility to Vilsack, whom he said was “almost without peer among governors as a reformer.”

Governor of the first-in-the-nation caucus to boot. How much are you willing to bet that Nutsack and the DLC oppose any plans Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have for reforming the party’s primary system?

Vilsack has played an important role in developing and strengthening Iowa’s nonpartisan Congressional redistricting system, true. That merits some reformist kudos regardless of orientation. But who, even from Iowa, can name any major state-level policy initiatives he has developed?

Meanwhile, Nutsack already appears to be criticizing Dean:

But he said the party must move beyond criticizing Bush and develop a message that appeals to a wide range of voters.
“It’s not enough to be angry,” he said.

True enough, Tom, but it’s also not enough to be the USDA Prime Cut choice of a pseudo-reform, pseudo-new ideas policy organization, either.

July 13, 2005

White House lies about not speaking

Dan Froomkin lays bare the contradiction in his, July 11 roundup of around Washington.

Richard W. Stevenson writes in the New York Times: "Mr. Rove made no public comment. A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House now says its official position is not to comment on the case while it is under investigation by a federal special prosecutor, said Mr. Rove had gone about his business as usual on Monday.

Uhh, excuse me, “Mr. Unidentified White House guy”: Whether you’re allowing your name to be used or not, you’re still commenting. D’oh!

July 12, 2005

There’s evolutionary psychology and then there’s Evolutionary Psychology

Taking the lowercase version to be a simple formulation of the idea that neo-Darwinian processes can shed some light on development of the human mind, with many of the details of that still to be unpacked, and the uppercase version as stating an overarching theory, namely that neo-Darwinism can explain in detail how specific aspects of human personality came to be, that they have remained in existence as stable entities due to a highly modular human brain with a highly genetically determined output, and that these modules and their output largely transcend cultural changes, philosopher of science David Buller sees no problem with the former but plenty that’s wrong with the latter.

Of course, as Buller explains it in more detail in this Scientific American article, the uppercase version — what gets inflicted on the interested lay public, as well as commonly being discussed as the only starting point among peers — has plenty of holes in it.

While Buller never actually uses the Gould phrase “just-so stories,” it is clear that is part, but not all, of what he is getting at.

Buller doesn't reject evolutionary studies of the mind per se. Rather, he contends that ‘Evolutionary Psychology,’ a set of assumptions about the nature and evolution of the human mind, has largely crowded out the possibility of a more pluralistic ‘evolutionary psychology.’

But who is a philosopher of science to challenge alleged misstatements and oversellings of Evolutionary Psychology, defenders of the Ev Psych status quo may ask, and argue?

Well, considering a cognitive scientist (Dan Dennett) and a cognitive psychologist (Steve Pinker) rank front and center among those status quo defenders, I would say Butler has as much right to speak for a new paradigm as they do to defend the current one.

Butler makes clear that he approaches this issue from the philosopher’s tradition charge to clarify what is unclearly argued or postulated, and point out why it is unclearly formulated.

Plus, unlike people’s conception, or misconception, of Gould, or Eldridge, or others of their ilk, Butler makes clear he is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, sees no need to, and in fact, that some sort of “baby” is worth further investigation.

He shows that here:

If by human nature all you mean is whatever humans do, then absolutely there's a human nature, and an evolutionary perspective on human beings will inform us about human nature.

His points of critique I find salient include:

· Difficulty of reconstructing the ancient environment supposed to have had evolutionary psychology influence. (From here out, I will go lowercase with the phrase with the understanding that it is being used in Butler’s uppercase sense.
· How the modular idea of the human mind postulated by evolutionary psychology would seem to conflict with the plasticity believed to be a hallmark of human intelligence.
· How evolutionary psychologists seem to generally have a narrow focus in not looking for possible alternative explanations.
· Failure to distinguish between proximate and ultimate causes of behavior.

And he’s not claiming to be a genius anyway.

I'm not telling the world that everything in my book is right, so everyone should stop listening to evolutionary psychologists. I propose something different: Inform yourselves. Please. Go out and read the stuff by evolutionary psychologists and read my book, then make up your own minds about what you think is right and wrong.

I haven’t had a chance to look for his new book, “Adapting Minds,” but I shall soon do so. I hope you take Buller’s advice, and start with the article.

July 11, 2005

Cooper's sudden enlightenment doesn't hide crocodile tears

Atrios weighs in with the idea that Cooper actually got tired of Luskin spinning Rove’s legal case in the court of public opinion and figured Luskin was giving him an easy out, if Cooper wanted to spin it that way.

Of course, this points even harder at Cooper’s crocodile-tear performance, if he was willing to pontificate about this being a matter of highest journalistic principle and then resort to a hair-splitting tactic to keep his ass out of jail.

So, no, Matt, I don’t feel much less cynical about you than I did Friday afternoon.

Beyond crocodile tears, a changing Cooper story

So it turns out Matt Cooper didn’t get a last minute July 8 phone call from Karl Rove.

Cooper, it turns out, never spoke to his confidential source that day, said Robert D. Luskin, a lawyer for the source, who is now known to be Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.

The development was actually the product of a frenzied series of phone calls initiated that morning by a lawyer for Mr. Cooper and involving Mr. Luskin and the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

So again, why should we trust Big Media players, especially when they make themselves part of the story?

Of course, from the info Josh Marshall supplies, we probably shouldn’t take anything Rove attorney Robert Luskin says as gospel truth, or close to it. I mean, a lawyer who takes part of his fees in a money laundering case in gold bars is probably the type to deal from the bottom of the deck, verbally or otherwise.

Why not invite Ahhnold?

To the G-8’s first “dialogue” meeting on global warming with emerging nations.

From Yahoo:

The first “dialogue” meeting takes place in Britain on November 1, and although its agenda and participants at this early stage are unknown, the timing is important.

It will take place just a few weeks ahead of the first round of negotiations, in Montreal, on what happens after the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. …

Blair's goal seems to be that the “dialogue” may encourage the United States into the post-Kyoto fold, if Washington can be convinced that these big countries will sign up to emissions targets, or something similar to them.

If the Ol’ Lapdog would invite The Ahhnold, who has set clear, forward-looking, Kyoto- and postKyoto-esque goals to get the carbon out of California, he might just increase the political pressure on Georgie-Porgie enough to get more “traction.” And, if nothing else, Blair would shed more of his lapdog image.

July 10, 2005

Cooper-Rove and “double super secret background”

Well, Newsweek’s latest about Karl Rove’s role in outing Valerie Plame is online.

I have to comment re the title of this post. Cooper e-mails his bureau chief, Michael Duffy:
“Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation ...”

I know you’re trying to indicate the degree of confidentiality, Matt, but geez, “double super secret background”? Sounds like some kids’ club and its passwords.

Which, come to think about it, since we’re talking about arguably the most powerful man in Washington and one of the somewhat preening stars of its establishmentarian media, is probably just about right.

Rove treats this like a kid raiding the cookie jar, and, to borrow a phrase from Atrios, Cooper want to advance to the innermost ranks of the Kool Kids Klub.

Rove gets nailed by Newsweek

David Corn reports that Newsweek is detailing July 10 that Rove did tell Matt Cooper in a deep background conversation that Valerie Plame was CIA.

Now, it’s not enough to get Rove on the unlawful outing charge, but, as Corn notes, it might be good enough for a perjury count.

Also, since Bush called on leakers in his administration to come forward two years ago, as Corn notes, what’s he going to say now?