SocraticGadfly: 10/7/07 - 10/14/07

October 13, 2007

Remember, NSA illegal snooping started from a Bill Clinton background

If it’s correct that the National Security Agency started warrantless telecom snooping on Americans less than a month after Bush took office, remember this one thing:

Those were still Bill Clinton appointees at the top of the NSA at that time.

True, the Bush Administration may have been seen by the NSA as offering a greener light than the Clinton Administration, but it seems to me like this was primarily NSA initiative involved. And that’s NSA initiative by people appointed by Bill Clinton. Remember, FISA requests and other things were ramped up greatly in the last two years of Big Bill’s administration, basically from the time he fired cruise missiles at a Sudanese milk factory on.

True, the attack on the USS Cole may have ramped up urgency even more, but a Bill Clinton NSA coming up with the original warrantless snooping makes it no more legitimate than a George W. Bush NSA initiative.

And that, my friends, is why Congressional Democrats probably won’t push too, too hard for NSA documents from this period as a trade off for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act renewal.

October 12, 2007

McCain has sour Green grapes

The Schmuck Talk Express sez Al Gore shouldn’t have won the Nobel Prize.

Sour grapes because your own global warming efforts aren’t getting more traction?

As for nominating the Buddhist monks in Myanmar, McCain either is ignorant of or ignoring Nobel Prize guidelines. They’re too late for this year’s Peace Prize, but certainly eligible next year.

With endorsements like this, how could you not vote for Hillary?

Between endorsements from Walter Mondale and Charles Krauthammer, Sen. Clinton has wrapped up the hidebound traditionalist Democrat and neoconservative nutbar votes, or at least neocon nutbars who will vote Democratic.

More seriously, Krauthammer says he and his ilk could live with Clinton because of her schwaffling on the torture issue, among other things. The Kraut says:
I could never vote for her, but I (and others of my ideological ilk) could live with her — precisely because she is so liberated from principle.

(Sidebar: The Kraut is so divorced from reality he can still trot out Chile’s Pinochet-era privatized Social Security as a success even though vast numbers of Chileans despise it.

Anyway, remember what to do if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination:

Vote Green.

October 11, 2007

Technological dream fantasies about environmental salvation

This Kate Sheppard blog over at The Prospect about “Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility” by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, the self-styled thinking outside the box, “anti-environmentalist movement” environmentalists, got me to thinking about the bottom line of why most Americans still don’t take global warming — let alone Peak Oil — seriously.

They believe technological salvation will always come over the hill to save the day. My bottom line take is that these people believe in “technological exceptionalism” as a subset of American exceptionalism. Those that believe American exceptionalism comes from divine pleasure, oversight or mandate probably hold this in spades.

Cynthia McKinney to run for President as a Green?

From a Texas Green Party activist’s e-mail list, that’s the word I have. The former Georgia Congresswoman, active in opposition to the Iraq war, a leader in impeachment calls, and strong in challenging the influence of AIPAC over American foreign policy, is being actively courted by the Green Party.

McKinney recently moved to the Bay Area … and registered to vote as a Green Party member.

She would be, in Green Party terms, a great candidate, relatively speaking, in terms of name recognition and political experience. Not sure how much of a backfire personality issues might cause.

Global warming: Not just hotter, but more humid

That’s the findings of the latest scientific research on the issue. In the U.S., this has major implications for population shifts to the central and eastern parts of the Sunbelt, namely Texas and Florida above all. As it gets both hotter and more humid, people will crank the ACs even higher, which means more electric use and more carbon dioxide production.

Also, as natural gas nears a worldwide production peak similar to Peak Oil, it will mean higher electric rates from non-coal fired plants, accelerate the rise in fertilizer and pesticide costs for farmers, and more.

October 10, 2007

Hillary Clinton continues to give real progressives ammunition to not vote Democrat

First it was not having a plan or a timeframe to strongly reduce our presence in Iraq, let alone get us out. Now, she sounds almost Bush-like in her waffling about torture:
Clinton was similarly vague about how she would handle special interrogation methods used by the CIA. She said that while she does not condone torture, so much has been kept secret that she would not know unless elected what other extreme measures interrogators are using, and therefore could not say whether she would change or continue existing policies.

”It is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn't doing. We're getting all kinds of mixed messages,” Clinton said. “I don't think we’ll know the truth until we have a new president. I think [until] you can get in there and actually bore into what’s been going on, you’re not going to know.”

It’s really not that hard to give a straight answer to questions like this, unless you don’t want to. Hubby Big Bill probably would have said similar; remember, he’s the one, before W., who ramped the process of rendition into high gear.

Talking Points Memo appears to try to give her a pass by accusing the Post of selective quoting. So, in the blockquote below, I’ll paste her full comment to the Post, with what it omitted in italics, and then comment on that.
Question: Can I ask you a follow up? You mentioned Blackwater, you’ve said that at the beginning of your administration you’d ask the Pentagon to report. When it comes to special interrogation methods, obviously you’ve said you’re against torture, but the types of methods that are now used that aren’t technically torture but are still permitted, would you do something in your first couple days to address that, suspend some of the special interrogation methods immediately or ask for some kind of review?

HRC: Well I think I’ve been very clear about that too, we should not conduct or condone torture and it is not clear yet exactly what this administration is or isn’t doing, we’re getting all kinds of mixed messages. I don’t think we’ll know the truth until we have a new President. I think once you can get in there and actually bore into what’s been going on, you’re not going to know. I was very touched by the story you guys had on the front page the other day about the WWII interrogators. I mean it's not the same situation but it was a very clear rejection of what we think we know about what is going on right now but I want to know everything, and so I think we have to draw a bright line and say ‘No torture – abide by the Geneva conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,' and then try to make sure we implement that.

So, is she that much firmer against torture with this context?

No. This is exactly the George W. Bush talking point: “We’re against torture, but we don’t torture.”

Every other Democratic presidential candidate, as well as the written record of international law, identifies practices such as waterboarding as torture. Why can’t Hillary Clinton?

And, for the record, I can assure you I will vote Green if she gets the Democratic nomination.

Both Clarence Thomas and Al Sharpton need to admit and recognize this

There is no such thing as “one black America,” writes columnist Eugene Robinson. Beyond the obvious fact that black conservatives (conservative on everything except the need for affirmative action, at least) are far more than museum curiosities (Clarence Thomas, who pulls the affirmative action ladder back up after him, IS a museum curiosity), it’s good for black, white, Hispanic and Asian America to all admit this, And celebrate it.

Blacks may remain the most politically monolithic ethnic group for some time, as well as the most religious one. But, it hurts Democrats to take them for granted as voters, and especially through things such as vote suppression in poor minority areas (which could still backfire with conservative blacks of conscience), it hurts Republicans to take them for granted as voters in the other direction. It encourages vote-targeting social Balkanization by candidates of both parties, especially at the Presidential level.

Blackwater not the only bad guys in Iraq

In his latest column, Ted Rall reminds us of U.S. troops who have done the same or worse.

While the percentage of bad apples may not be that high in the Army or Marines, it’s certainly more than minuscule.

October 09, 2007

Barack Obama: The 2008 Adlai Stevenson?

Josh Marshall’s reflections on Obama’s campaign, plus Maureen Dowd’s comment on Arthur Schlesinger’s diaries, including his observations about Stevenson and Obama, made me think, along with MoJo Dowd, that the two Illinoisians may indeed come from similar political molds.

Let’s take the analogy a bit further.

Is John Edwards then 2008’s Jack Kennedy? Arguably, though Elizabeth Edwards ain’t Jackie, and there’s no Camelot in either North Carolina trial lawyering nor hedge-fund operations.

And, Hillary Clinton? Perhaps a more feminine, and much suaver, though not necessarily kinder and gentler, 2008 LBJ?

In this analogy, going yet further, Bill Richardson is 2008’s Hubert Humphrey, right on some big issues, but without the traction to win. Chris Dodd might be today’s Pennsylvania Gov. Bill Scranton.

Dunno where we’d place Biden or Kucinich. But, we could call Mike Gravel today’s Harold Stassen, perhaps.

Does the Southwest Housing/Dallas City Hall scandal extend south?

Beyond that scandal with its recent indictments, is there a further story, with the Potashniks offering money or other considerations to leaders of the Best Southwest cities of Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville and Lancaster?

Contrary to what a friend of mine says a friend of his says, I’m pretty damned sure that answer is no, based on my time as a newspaper editor in Lancaster and familiarity with the Best Southwest in general.

First, what do the four cities have? Per that scandal with its recent indictments, Lancaster has a Southwest Housing low-income apartment complex. Cedar Hill has a Southwest Housing seniors complex and DeSoto has two. Duncanville has no Southwest Housing projects, though some of its projects in southwest Dallas are inside Duncanville School District boundaries.

So, throw Duncanville out. Beyond having no Southwest Housing projects, its city council protested a few years back about the number and size of those being built in southwest Dallas that would fall inside school district boundaries.

Throw Cedar Hill and DeSoto out. Senior citizens apartment complexes aren’t controversial, unless they’re real junkers. And, from the outside, the ones in Cedar Hill and DeSoto look OK.

That leaves Lancaster.

I was the Lancaster newspaper editor when the Lancaster Planning and Zoning Commission and Lancaster City Council approved the Rosemont of Lancaster site.

This process has several differences with any Dallas projects.

First, the site was already zoned multi-family. Second, Southwest Housing wasn’t in competition with another low-income developer, unlike Dallas. Third, the only controversy in Lancaster was whether the Potashniks would get Planned Development zoning to build a complex with four-bedroom apartments, or whether they would, if defeated there, under straight zoning for which the site was already zoned build a complex with just two- and three-bedroom apartments, but which would actually have a higher population density than their Planned Development site plan proposed?

Well, Lancaster leaders made the best of a bad situation and approved the Planned Development. Besides, if Nancy Moffett didn’t smell a rat, there likely wasn’t one.

So, it’s my considered opinion that there’s nothing to look at down here.

Top Senate Democrat suck up to rich money manipulators, too

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says a tax increase on buyout-firm management won’t pass the Senate this year. The Senate calendar is crowded (Reid’s claim) in large part because of GOP filibuster threats. Reid could have had a political cudgel to beat Republicans about the head.

Democratic cave may be coming on FISA renewal

According to Talking Points Memo, all the way from a slick, GOP-style acronym (the RESTORE Act to replace PROTECT America) on down, here’s the details of what Democrats are willing to surrender on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act renewal and expansion:
• The bill would allow so-called “umbrella” warrants from the FISA Court for what The New York Times calls "bundles of overseas communications." That umbrella would last for up to one year and is meant to extend to communications into and out of the United States. If the "target" was in the U.S., however, the administration would have to seek an individualized warrant from the court. …

• Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is working away on his own version of the bill, and apparently retroactive immunity (for telecoms) might be part of the package.

Gee, given his spinelessness in the past, this just shocks me that Rockefeller would be doing this.

October 08, 2007

Lee Siegel could try to be open-minded about reading secularist tomes

Siegel, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, takes to task the recent books of “militant atheists” like Christopher Hitchens (five-starred by me on Amazon), Victor Stenger (given an advance provisional five-star rating), Richard Dawkins (four-starred) Dan Dennett (generously three-starred) and Sam Harris (two-starred). Hitchens is by far the best of those I’ve read, as he is the only one to, metaphorically speaking, show that the Dalai Lama as well as the Pope has no clothes. Dennett barely touches on Eastern religion, as does Dawkins, and Harris tries to pretend that Buddhism isn’t a religion, and that it doesn’t have any empirical or philosophical problems, both of which are incorrect. (Hat tip to Kevin Drum for his discussion of this op-ed column.)

Siegel first cites things from Internet pornography to the Kansas Board of Education being overruled on trying to teach creationism intelligent design (creationism-lite) as examples of why we don’t have to worry about religious control in America. He ignores that, no matter how many setbacks in the field, the Religious Right won’t give up. After all, it trotted out intelligent design to replace creationism. Here in Texas, “under God” was added to the Texas flag pledge of allegiance this year by the state legislature. (How many states are nutbar enough to have a state flag pledge, anyway? The U.S. and the Philippines are the only two countries to have a national flag pledge.)

He then claims “the attacks in the book don’t make much sense.” Well, if you’re going to adopt the patristic Christian claim, “I believe because it’s absurd,” as Siegel does later in the column, well, of course, they won’t make sense. Logic doesn’t make sense in an illogical, self-contained, hermetically sealed thought system.

Finally, Siegel trots out this old chestnut:
For the imagination is what embodies concepts, ideas and values that cannot be scientifically verified and that have no practical usefulness.

He is, in essence, making the old claim that the atheist can’t appreciate the “spirituality” of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, let alone Handel’s Messiah, tying that with the canard about “soulless reductionistic science.”

I can surely appreciate the spirituality, or whatever, even of Mozart’s Requiem or Bach’s B minor Mass as much as any religious person, and said so in a newspaper column.

As for the “soulless reductionistic science” idea, I put up the quote of evolutionary biologist and science writer Robert Sapolsky:
Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it.

In short, Robert Siegel doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. The title of his forthcoming book, “Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” also labels him as some sort of Luddite.

October 07, 2007

Democratic cave-in No. 643

This time, it’s on pre-2003 Presidential Daily Briefings on Iraq. Senate Democrats dropped their demand for these briefings as part of 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill. This was the first time since the Senate Intelligence Committee was created more than 30-years ago, after the Church Committee investigation, that an intell bill hadn’t been summarily passed.

Beyond dropping the PDB demands, and perhaps more ominously, Senate Dems also caved on something else:
Democrats also dropped a demand for the Director of Central Intelligence to identify and hand over documentation related to secret prisons run by the US government around the world and operations involving extraordinary rendition.

So much for Congressional oversight, eh?

But, my (for now) fellow bloggers at the Watching Those We Choose joint blog will continue to excoriate progressives like me who insist that a Green Party vote must be seriously considered.

Please. Enablers.

OPEC to consider money change?

Consider ditching your T-bills. Speculation continues to mount that OPEC will dump the dollar as the sole currency of payment. As the Euro continues to soar, and the dollar sinks even beneath the Canadian loonie, can you blame OPEC? But, will the cartel, under what will surely be intense U.S. pressure not to co-denominate, presumably with the Euro, go through with any such move?

Bush only a selective language mangler

Op-ed columnist Paul Krugman asserts that Shrub speaks just fine when talking about punitive matters, but that the language of compassion trips him up.

Interesting. I’ll have to listen to Arbusto more, and more carefully, in coming months.