SocraticGadfly: 4/23/06 - 4/30/06

April 29, 2006

Rush to deal-cutting

So Rush Limbaugh has cut a deal on his drug charges. Wonder how this is going to play on the air.

The plea is a not-guilty, so that’s how HE will spin it. But, in fact if not in name, what this really is, is a deferred adjudication plea with an 18-month tripwire. Rush will only be considered not guilty if he keeps his rehab going for 18 months and stays clean while doing that.

April 27, 2006

Senate GOP enviro-slimeballs try new ANWR tactic; Demos do pander lite

So Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wants to pass out $100 gas price rebate checks to the general public — in exchange for ANWR drilling? This illustrates just how low they’re willing to stoop.

This is antienvironmental for the attack on ANWR, as well as through encouraging more gasoline usage by subsidizing it. This doubly whammy shows how desperate the GOP is in general, and specifically, how enthralled it is to Big Oil. And that’s the angle Demos need to follow to fight this. And they are.
“It’s designed to protect Big Oil while mistakenly believing that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will solve America's energy problems,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. A price-gouging measure in the GOP package focuses on “mom and pop” operators and not the major oil companies, said Manley.

Problem is, the Democrats aren’t doing a lot better in the pandering game.
Democrats, meanwhile, were assembling their own package of measures, including a proposal offered by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., for a 60-day suspension of the 18.4 cent federal gasoline tax and the 24-cent a gallon diesel tax. He said it would provide immediate relief of $100 million a day for motorists.

We don’t need to be doing that, either. People need to learn that higher gasoline prices are here to stay.

The sad part is that the Demos, in general, won't even use the two magic words of "Peak Oil."

April 25, 2006

Close to running (off) the table

National Review’s Rich Lowry claims BushCo is close to running the diplomatic table with its brilliance.
President Bush has hitched a rising India to the U.S. At the same time, he has forged a close relationship with India's historic rival, Pakistan. The U.S. alliance with Japan has never been stronger, and relations with China are relatively friendly, too. The administration has been firm in its defense of Taiwan's de facto independence, while keeping the island from any unnecessary provocations. Diplomatically — putting aside the intractable North Korean nuclear problem — his is as close as it comes to running the table.

Let’s take a closer look at this brilliance.

1. With India, our beloved Preznit has signed off on a deal that clearly allows India to violate the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty by segregating civilian and military uranium enrichment and keeping the military side off-limits to inspection. This can only ramp up nuclear fears of Pakistan. Speaking of which …

2. That “close relationship” with Pakistan is based on a hypocritical “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.” We don’t ask where Osama bin Laden is, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf doesn’t tell us.

3. The U.S. alliance with Japan is not so smooth as Lowry paints, especially re the future of U.S. military bases on Japanese soil. The only reason it is as smooth as it is, is of course in part due to the fact that Japan is in essence a one-party democracy, or almost an oligarchy. Only when the LDP gets voted out of power there can we really know what the future of U.s.-Japan relations are.

4. Relations with China relatively friendly? That’s because BushCo runs free trade up the flagpole and salutes it no questions asked, when it benefits American CEOs and boards of directors. It’s even more because China’s holding the roof over our heads.

5. And, if you want to “put aside the intractable North Korean nuclear problem,” you can fudge all sorts of things. That would include BushCo’s contributions to its intractability.

Of course, Rich doesn’t think any of these things are really problems. Witness his final graf:
We should care less about Jacques Chirac taking offense at our latest alleged gaucherie and more about what Dr. Manmohan Singh — he prime minister of India — thinks of attempts in Congress to torpedo the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.

Undercutting the spirit of nuclear nonproliferation is apparently not a problem. And, apparently, neither is the rest of the laundry list I presented, as long as St. George is in charge.

No dictionary for you — Exhibit A on why law has nothing to do with common sense

Zacarias Moussaou trial judge Leonie Brinkema has told jurors in the penalty phase of deliberations that they can’t have a dictionary, along with this explanation.
Brinkema told them that sending a dictionary in would be like adding additional evidence in the case, but she invited them to come back if they had questions about specific definitions. And she warned them against doing their own research, including looking up definitions.

What, are they going to look up the word “terrorist” and see Moussaou’s picture next to it? Or look up the word “gullible” and see a picture of the American public believing BushCo’s “war on terror” necessitated invading Iraq?

This is argument No. 647 for jury nullification — simply to throw money wrenches in the trial court system works. It’s an argument for other things as well, such as deliberately contrarian juror voting, if a smart-minded juror can’t get a judge to exercise common sense rather than the law.

A good way to notice air pollution

To really notice air pollution in a more humid part of the country, I heartily suggest taking a vacation of a week or more to the desert Southwest, then returning at the height of the late-spring rainy season, when the higher humidity — higher for this part of the country for this time of year, not just higher compared to the Great Basin and Mojave deserts — and oft-stagnant air traps pollutants.

In short, suburban Dallas can stink in April after a visit to Utah, Arizona and desert California.

Hypothetically guilt-free pseudo-liberal still-pollution global warming fighting

Bumper stickers, ever since the invasion of Iraq, proliferated into hood/deck stickers, door stickers and more.

Oh, sure, you might see an occasional pick ribbon sticker for a breast cancer survivor or something, but the invasion of Iraq and its yellow “Support the Troops” ribbons really ginned things up.
Meanwhile, some drivers, mainly but not only SUV owners, think they can buy themselves out of the consequences of global warming.

But many people believe a few dollars on a sticker can indeed buy social redemption, as this New York Times story about carbon offset bumper stickers illustrates.
Take Biff Cuthbert. Running an organic clam farm for a few years taught him all about being green. But when he recently needed a new vehicle to haul musical equipment for his folk band, as well as his two Akita dogs, Mr. Cuthbert ignored his environmental conscience and bought a cream-colored 2004 Land Rover, which gets 12 miles to the gallon.

Feeling a pang of conscience about driving such a gas-guzzler, Mr. Cuthbert paid $79.95 to, a group that helps finance non-polluting solar, wind and methane-driven energy projects. In exchange, he got a sticker for his windshield verifying that he is offsetting some of the 16,766 pounds of carbon dioxide his Land Rover will emit this year.

"It rounds the edges off of the guilt a little bit, I guess," said Mr. Cuthbert, 62, of Guilford, Conn. "It's a little like having your cake and eating it too," Mr. Cuthbert said.

Web sites like,, and focus on automobile emissions because drivers can become aware of their carbon footprint every time they fill up. An average car produces about 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

What this is NOT, contrary to the mass media, is a way of buying oneself out, or of assuaging, one’s guilt over failure to actually do something concrete in either instance. Rather, in my opinion, it’s a form of intellectual and moral laziness.

It’s intellectual laziness for refusing to brainstorm what one might actually do to “support the troops” or produce less global greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond that, it’s moral laziness, above all for having some suspicion of what an appropriate action might be, prior to any brainstorming, but refusing to take that action.

Let’s take the carbon offsets first.

Basically, this is a rationalization for allowing oneself to continue to drive an SUV. Really, if you need that much room, there’s the option of a minivan which gets 50-100 percent better gas mileage. And, with sliding second-row doors and large rear lift-hatch doors, minivans are actually easier to load and unload than SUVs.

As for towing, sure, front-drive minivans don’t have the same torque as rear-drive SUVs. But, rear-drive fullsize vans do, and they still get better gas mileage than fullsize SUVs.

But, minivans, let alone fullsize vans, aren’t “cool.” So, the intellectually and morally lazy spend more on an SUV than on a van, and then spend $79 a year on a cheap bumper sticker to pretend to really be doing something about the environment.

Ditto, in spades, for the “Support the Troops” ribbons.

Have you even written a letter to an individual soldier, let alone indicated your willingness to actually sacrifice?

Would you support a tax hike or a budget cut sufficient to pay for this war, rather than making its costs part of a $500 million a year federal budget deficit? Would you support gasoline rationing, especially as prices continue to soar? To connect with the other theme here, would you get serious about driving your SUV less, if you own one?

Would you support a young relative of yours joining the military, knowing more troops are needed in Iraq? If someone in your family actually talks about signing up, would you try to keep others from talking him or her out of it?

A fair chunk of people who could be defined, if they were more politically active, as “liberal hawks,” have these ribbon magnets. So, too, do many “moderate squishes” and “undifferentiated blobs.” This is not just a phenomenon of “run Bush up the flagpole and salute” conservatives.