SocraticGadfly: 12/16/07 - 12/23/07

December 21, 2007

Green Party presidential candidates announced

1. Jared Ball, independent journalist; radio host (WPFW 89.3 FM Pacifica Radio in Washington, D.C.), hip-hop scholar, assistant professor of communications studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md.

2. Elaine Brown, 2005 Green candidate for Mayor of Brunswick, Ga.; former leader of the Black Panther Party; organizer of Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice and National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform.

3. Jesse Johnson (YouTube clip, not official website), 2006 US Senate candidate and 2004 gubernatorial candidate for the Mountain Party in West Virginia (now affiliate state party of the Green Party of the United States); filmmaker.

4. Kat Swift, Kat Swift, Texas Green organizer; former Campus Greens leader; activist with Clean Money San Antonio and San Antonio Democracy Now.

5. Kent Mesplay, 2004 candidate for the Green presidential nomination; former president of Turtle Island Institute; environmental engineer, alternative energy activist; California Green organizer.

6. Cynthia McKinney, former member of the US House of Representatives (Georgia), 1993 to 2003, 2005 to 2007; former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, 1988-1992.

7. Ralph Nader, 1996 and 2000 Green candidate for President; 2004 independent candidate for President; consumer advocate (Howie Hawkins of the Green Party of New York State has consented to serve as a 'placeholder' candidate until Mr. Nader announces his intentions for the 2008 election).

I’m going to offer my take, as a 2004 Green Party voter, and financial contributor once since then.

I’m going to start with the bottom two candidates on the list, intentionally put there by my precisely because they’re the only two known to non-Greens.

I doubt Nader will get the nomination, just as an official Green caucus denied him the 2004 nomination. However, I would be shocked if he actually harnesses his ego enough not to run an independent campaign.

Cynthia McKinney? Stereotypes and smears related to 9/11 aside, her temper, and sense of entitlement, do concern me. She also (and this coming from someone who doesn’t come close to supporting the Israel lobby) can flirt with the boundaries of something approaching anti-Semitism.

So, let’s look at the not-so-famous candidates.

I’ve already seen a copy of Brown’s platform. She tries to out-Sweden Sweden by calling for a $25/hour minimum wage. Given that, even for full-time employees, U.S. per capita income isn’t a lot more than that, and is a lot below that in the heartland, this isn’t close to realistic.

I have a bit of familiarity with Swift. Clean money is a good emphasis and I don’t see anything wrong with her.

Mesplay, with his background in alt-energy, has a strong “core Green” issue, and one of importance.

I know less about Ball (though a real journalist from Pacifica Radio can’t be too bad, IMO) or Johnson.

More info on all candidates is here.

Lakota declare themselves separate nation – free Leonard Peltier?

Noting multiple broken U.S. treaties, and citing Article Six of the U.S. Constitution and the Vienna Convention of 1980, the Lakota have declared themselves independent. Longtime American Indian Movement activist Russell Means delivered the proclamation:
“We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us.

“This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution.

“It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and independent."

What’s next?

Free Leonard Peltier!

No, seriously. Free Leonard Peltier, or at least give him a new trial. Besides, he’s no longer a U.S. citizen right?

Beyond “gimmick” status, maybe this will have benefits such as jump-starting the stalled lawsuit against the Department of Interior for mismanaging Indian tribal fiduciary investments, and forcing more seriousness about Indian rights in general.

At the same time, does Means really want to try to go back to pre-Columbian North America? Sure, you’d have no smallpox, measles, etc., as well as no white folks around, but, you’d also have no horses, no guns and no smelted metals.

California to sue BushCo over EPA waiver denial

As I noted earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency, in wake of the new energy bill and its higher car mileage standards that Congress just passed, denied California (and 12 other states wanting to piggyback) a waiver to institute new standards on carbon dioxide emissions.

Well, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t taking it lying down. He says he’s going to sue.
“I am extremely disappointed by EPA's decision to block the will of millions of people in California and 16 other states who want us to take tough action against global warming,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

“I have no doubt that we will prevail because the law, science, and the public’s demand for leadership are on our side,” Schwarzenegger said.

Fortunately, with the BushCo clock running, the EPA will have a new chief in place by the time this suit progresses very far.

December 20, 2007

Yet another empirical swift kick in the pants for Charles Murray and “The Bell Curve”

Romanian children moved from orphanages to foster care show a 12-15 point gain on IQ, if placed before the age of 2.

So much for that high heritability of “q,” a mythical intelligence factor that’s never even been proven to exist.

What happens if all those CDOs are uninsured?

It’s quite possible. Today, bond insurer MBIA announced it has more exposure to collateralized debt obligations than its entire net worth.
MBIA said it has exposure to $30.6 billion in complex mortgage securities that it insures, an amount that eclipses its entire net worth, … (including) exposure to $8.1 billion of collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, including mostly risky debt known as CDO squared, or CDOs backed by other CDOs, it reported on its Web site late on Wednesday. The company's net worth as of September 30 was $6.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley’s mix of real indignation over the under-insuring, mixed with faux indignation about another company besides Morgan Stanley cutting corners on investments, sounds like it comes straight from a reel of “Casablanca”:
“We are shocked that management withheld this information for as long as it did,” Morgan Stanley said in a report, referring to the CDO-squared exposure.

Shocked that there’s gambling in this loan-based securities establishment!

Meawhile, Bear Stearns posted its first quarterly loss in history.

I’m sure the bulls on the Street are trying to do their latest spinmeistering as we speak.

December 19, 2007

EPA proves it’s part of BushCo, rejects California CO2 wavier

The Environmental Protection Agency, using what opponents claim is bad math to downplay the mpg effect of California’s desire to regulate automobile CO2, has officially rejected California’s waiver request. It was the first time EPA had fully denied a California waiver since Congress gave the state permission to seek them in 1967.

EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson claimed it was too piecemeal a solution (duhhh, Congress’ explicit intent of the waiver allowance being ignored) and that the new fuel economy bill (which is actually voluntary for years and which California backers say will be slower to improve mpg than California controlling CO2) should override California’s request.

Evolution’s acceleration and the evolution of religious belief

Recent news that the pace of human evolution may have accelerated in the last 40,000 years, and accelerated a lot in the last 10,000, seems like it would fit both with books I’ve read on cognitive science and evolutionary psychology’s connection with religion by others such as Scott Atran and Pascal Boyer, but also with the dating of cave paintings in sites such as Lascaux.

Now China wants a piece of the U.S. financial action

Just weeks after Singapore and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority became major investors in cash-strapped financial institutions, China is getting in on the action.
Morgan Stanley, the No. 2 U.S. investment bank, reported a $9.4 billion writedown on Wednesday from bad bets on mortgage-related debt, leading it to take a $5 billion infusion from an arm of the Chinese government.

China Investment Corp. (made the) investment in Morgan Stanley. China's government-controlled investment vehicle will hold no more than 9.9 percent of the investment bank once its investment converts to common shares in 2010.

Several points to note. One, the writedown is three times what MS had previously warned of just a month ago.

Two, if the writedown problems are continually that bad, as every financial institution weighing in on the matter of their books in the past 30 days have said, just how shaky is the system?

Three, as I’ve talked about before, just how much will foreigners try to invest in U.S. financial institutions? Will the Securities and Exchange Commission weigh in, or drop some hints? Or the Fed? Or Congress?

Paul Kennedy spoke about issues like this in his magisterial book, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” too.

December 18, 2007

J-school 101 should teach you not to editorialize like this

In a story about the failure of a revenue-neutral bill to change how the alternative minimum tax falls, AP writer Jim Abrams uncorks this whopper:
Failure to enact AMT legislation before this session of Congress concludes this week would be a political disaster for both parties, but especially for majority Democrats.

No empirical evidence or even political analysis to justify this statement. And, where’s his editor’s blue pencil?

FCC: Big Media can now be Ginormous Media

The Federal Communications Commission, on a party-line 3-2 vote, will let broadcasters in the nation’s biggest cities also own newspapers.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin disingenuously claims that shrinkage in the newspaper biz makes this a safe move.

Of course, that’s exactly the opposite of true. Big Media, by newspapers, is a smaller pie than before; even in the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas, not all have multiple daily newspapers, and, of those that do, some of them have two newspapers in joint operating agreements.

The discussion and debate was rancorous:
The Democrats blasted the chairman for making changes to the proposal "in the dead of night" and just before the meeting that created new ownership loopholes instead of closing them, as he pledged during a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.

“Anybody who thinks our processes are open, thoughtful or deliberative should think twice in light of these nocturnal escapades,” said Democrat Jonathan Adelstein.

The Democrat said Martin's proposal “will allow for waivers for six new newspaper-broadcast combinations and 36 grandfathered stations.”

In places like here in Dallas, where The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV, one of the grandfathered stations, use this to lay off more employees, do “package” coverage, and shamelessly market each other while refusing to include each other in media criticism and critiquing pieces, shows just how wrong this is.

And where was the Fed with these lending controls five years ago?

If St. Alan Greenspan had proposed these checks on subprime lending, especially unscrupulous subprime lenders, we never would have had the housing bubble, followed by collapse, we’re now facing.

The Fed NOW, finally, is considering:
_restricting lenders from penalizing certain subprime borrowers — those with tarnished credit or low incomes — who pay off their loans early. The restriction would apply to loans that meet certain conditions, including that the penalty expire at least 60 days before any possible payment increase.

_forcing lenders to make sure that subprime borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance.

_barring lenders from making loans when they don't have proof, or verification, of a borrower's income.

_prohibiting lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.

Heck, if some other Fed governor had proposed these ideas five years ago, St. Alan probably would have ignored him or her.

But, anointed by Republicans and DLC/Clintonite Democrats, he was able to get away with economic adventurism.

BushCo lies on the domestic front

Housing starts remain at a 16-year low, Christmas spending is weak, and people are concerned but, according to our MBA Prez (who was probably partying through his macroeconomics classes), the economy is “pretty good.” Keep talking up the economy like you talk up Iraq and it will really tank.

December 16, 2007

Ron Paul-heads at it again

Fake campaign support forum websites appear to offer fake support to just about every GOP candidate except Ron Paul, Sarah Lai Stirland reports: is one of a small network of sites with prime domain names, like and, that have sprung up this year and share uncanny similarities. They use the same forum software, are hidden behind anonymous domain-registration services and are served by the same hosting company with a common internet IP address. ,,,

Texas lawmaker Ron Paul seems to have escaped the phenomenon. A Ron Paul forum hosted from the same IP address, and with the same layout as the others, is packed with genuine supporters in earnest discussion. The registered owner of that domain did not respond to interview requests from Wired News.

But, the tables recently got turned.
Already known to a handful of political bloggers, Wired News learned about the forums last week, after outraging many Paulites by reporting on a flurry of deceptive spam promoting Ron Paul's candidacy. Apparently in retaliation, a member posed as this reporter and posted a message to the forum boasting that the story was a “fake,” and had supposedly been written in exchange for payment from Giuliani supporters. “Hopefully, it will help accomplish your goals,” the post read, signing off with this reporter’s name.

Long-time forum members played along. The message board thread was later deleted, but not before fooling other Ron Paul supporters, one of whom produced a YouTube video offering the spoofed post as proof that Wired News was on Rudy Giuliani's payroll. The video enjoyed wide circulation online (including on Wired Digital's own Reddit news-aggregation site) and had been viewed more than 16,000 times by Monday afternoon.

So much for that extra moral integrity Paul-heads would bring to the campaign, right?

To Mitch Albom: Do you actually have an opinion on steroids in baseball?

Albom, whether through writing a column weeks in advance, channeling Morrie some Tuesday, or whatever, gives us a Dallas Morning News "on the one hand, on the other hand," column rather than actually telling us how he feels? Here you go.The intro, with the first hand of his “on the one hand, is reprinted; my replies follow:
Below are two lists. Why Steroids Matter. Why Steroids Don't Matter. Get a pencil, and circle the statements you agree with.
• 1. It's not illegal to use them if you have a prescription.
• 2. There was no testing in baseball until a few years ago -- well after many of the athletes cited in the Mitchell Report allegedly used them.
• 3. The misconceptions about steroids are insane: When properly used, they are not health-threatening.
• 4. Athletes always try to get an edge.
• 5. What about "greenies" -- amphetamines -- which players took for years? Should every player who took them be black-marked and asterisked?
• 6. What about caffeine? Doesn't that give you an edge? Some players gulp coffee or take caffeine pills. Should they be black-marked too?
• 7. If steroids were so bad, why did coaches and managers look the other way for so long?
• 8. If steroids were such an advantage, why were many of the players in the Mitchell Report unexceptional talents, some even journeymen?
• 9. Baseball is entertainment. You pay to see a show. The summer of 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had their record home-run chase, was a glorious time. What's bad about that?
• 10. These guys are grown men.
• 11. It's unrealistic to test every player for everything.
• 12. Human growth hormone is not an illegal steroid. You can use it if you get a prescription.
• 13. Many nonathletes swear by HGH for healing and slowing aging.
• 14. Who cares about baseball records? You can't compare eras anyhow. They used to play fewer games. Blacks weren't allowed until the 1940s. All records are relative.
• 15. The general public is sick of this story.

1. Unscrupulous docs will write unscrupulous prescriptions.
2. Lack of testing doesn't make the illegal legal.
3. Different steroids have different effects, and weren't using them for normally prescribed reasons.
4. So, we stop checking athletes?
5. Yes, so we should up enforcement and checking on amphetamines without ignoring steroids.
6. Caffeine? OK, Chuck, Mitch Albom's officially a douchbag at that point.
7. Cuz coaches want to win? Duh. Why did Belichick have a spy camera? Mitch is now douchbag squared.
8. AAA players were hoping to lock down a big-league shot.
9. More excuse-making.
10. Arguable.
11. Bullshit. Although the Olympics isn't perfect, it tests a lot more than baseball.
12. Ditto for No. 1 on prescribed steroids.
13. Just because a quack doctor makes quack claims.... how many players wear magnetic bracelets or other quackery?
14. Another non sequitur excuse
15. Sounds like the Bush Administration saying "move along" from its latest scandal.