SocraticGadfly: 8/16/09 - 8/23/09

August 22, 2009

Atrazine – a little dab WON’T do you, at all

Turns out, the common herbicide atrazine may be dangerous, as in carcinogenic dangerous, at MUCH lower doses than the EPA claims, even as many cities don’t monitor their municipal water systems frequently or closely enough to pick up atrazine spikes.

Besides cancer, atrazine may be a hormonal mimic, as hermaphroditic frogs are suggesting.

Think you’re hiking in circles?

Well, maybe you are. Casual hikers going on serious hikes, you’re now officially forewarned.

And, yes, I have gotten lost before myself.

Natl health – is ‘individual mandate’ unconstitutional?

Two conservative scholars argue that, at the federal level, it is indeed, and claim that federal carrots-and-sticks, like with highway money vs. DWI blood-alcohol levels, can’t expand the Commerce Clause that far.

Good, if it forces the “public option” to be more supported by the likes of Blue Dog Dems, who don’t want a national healthcare plan getting potentially blown up by the Supreme Court.

That’s even as another, non-conservative, group promotes San Francisco’s employer mandate plus public-option lite as a possible path to go.

Anal apartment managers...

I live in the most anally-managed apt. complex. In Dallas... they closed the one pool in a 160-unit complex for **a full week** to have a back-to-school pool party - from **1-4 p.m.** rather than in the evening; no shade = low attendance.

Passionless Dem politicians, and why

Eugene Robinson nails the issue that many Democrats in Washington lack passion about many issues, including, of course, national healthcare right now. And, he notes, many Democratic voters have a less emotional, less visceral, response to the issue.


On healthcare itself, many of those most affected need jobs right now first. And, many of them who are more politically literate do look at the banking bailouts, perhaps.

Beyond that, many Democratic voters continue to be “enablers,” just like loved ones enable an alcoholic drinker. And, that’s why the passionless pols.

They know they can get away with it.

Passionless Dem politicians, and why

Eugene Robinson nails the issue that many Democrats in Washington lack passion about many issues, including, of course, national healthcare right now. And, he notes, many Democratic voters have a less emotional, less visceral, response to the issue.


On healthcare itself, many of those most affected need jobs right now first. And, many of them who are more politically literate do look at the banking bailouts, perhaps.

Beyond that, many Democratic voters continue to be “enablers,” just like loved ones enable an alcoholic drinker. And, that’s why the passionless pols.

They know they can get away with it.

New Dallas Cowboy stadium has big flaw

Seems that punters can have their punts blocked by a hanging big-screen TV. Of course, Jerry Jones, the mayor of Hooterville, denied there’s a problem. Just as long as he gets his bucks off the TV screen, of course, there IS no problem for him.

The fraudulency of Obama

No, Glenn Greenwald doesn’t go quite that far (sadly), because, it seems more and more, that’s what Preznit Kumbaya is. Unless he really is so inept as to be Jimmy Carter II or worse.

He is a fraud. I saw that even before the telecom immunity flip-flop that Glenn notes in his column, and was already planning on voting Green before that.

Yet, many Democratic voters continue to be “enablers,” just like loved ones enable an alcoholic drinker.

August 21, 2009

Housing becomes another mini-bubble in midst of recession

If we weren’t, as a nation, so enamored of homeownership in the first place, causing the big bubble of earlier this decade, we wouldn’t need the government deliberately causing this new mini-bubble, which, like the misnamed cash for clunkers, won’t last too long.

Steny Hoyer on different healthcare playbook than Nancy Pelosi

The House majority leader, unlike his boss, the Speaker, is ready to junk the public option. Congressional Dems, as well as Team Obama, maybe can’t get their act together.

Obama’s trust problem

Paul Krugman nails the baseline problem Jimmy Carter II is starting to inflict on himself. Question… will progressive Congressional Democrats have to “run against the administration” in 2010 primaries with new challengers?

CFR head wants limits on Afghan War

Whoa! Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says the Afghanistan War is not an absolutely necessary one and that the Obama Administration ought to have limited goals and involvement.

Israeli says – please boycott my country

Neve Gordon says it’s the only way to force an equitable, moral solution to the Israel-Palestinian issue.

Murdoch continues to push online paywall, etc.

He’s now meeting with other publishers, doing what a kaknucklehead like Dean Singleton of AP should have been doing years ago, to get backing for an online news paywall. His confidantes, so far, include the LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post and others.
"The reality is that unless a lot of people who produce news act in unison to start charging for content, then individually they will fail," said Alan D. Mutter, a former newspaper columnist and editor and consultant on new media ventures.

For the first time in my life, I’m urging Rupert on.

That said, half of newspapers’ ad decline is due to the economy. But, the other half is due to the online ad world failing to deliver its promise.
"This, after 10 years of effort," said veteran newspaper analyst John Morton. "The only positive thing to be said for online revenue for newspapers is it's going down less rapidly."

That then said, in the hardcopy world, it’s always been 75 percent ads — and 25 percent subscriptions — as the model. Why, why, why, major newspapers and the AP didn’t look at their own model from the start, I have no freaking idea.

Mega-rich slip — a cup of schadenfreude?

The New York Times says the mega-rich have actually lost traction with the stock market collapse in 2007.

Of course, unless we get real financial system reform from this administration, we could have yet another bubble, aided, abetted and supported by the two-party duopoly. Remember, for every FDR or Andrew Jackson the Democratic Party has had as its standard-bearer, it’s had at least one Grover Cleveland, too.

Ted Rall – emotions trump logic on healthcare

In a column much better than Gene Lyons’ writing about the “fear” of winger protestors, Rall gets to the heart of the matter — anger trumps logical reasoning. And, that’s been the heart of what’s been wrong with Preznit Kumbaya.

And, yes, he’s getting to the stage that, like Bush, he is starting to earn the “Preznit” moniker.

Or, the Jimmy Carter II tag.

Anti-gay marriage folks won’t defend morality claims

In a great op-ed, libertarian Steve Chapman explains how he has directly challenged many of the Religious Right types who claim gay marriage will lead to America’s moral downfall to publicly defend their claims with some sort of evidence.

You know what?

None of them will.


Probably because they can’t.

We already have evidence from Europe that gay marriage in countries that have it there hasn’t raised the divorce rate, etc.

Here in the US, we’re going to have a state-level “laboratory,” which may produce enough evidence by the time Olsen-Boies get to the Supreme Court, to bolster their argument.

August 20, 2009

Aug. 20 healthcare update

The astroturfers behind the angry wingers are now trying to intimidate the media at a similar project in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Gene Lyons says the street-level wingers’ fear is real and insulting them won’t help.

He’s half right. Half the emotion is fear.

But, the other half is anger. Yes, Obama has misunderstood that anger, hugely, and has in some cases, arguably, exacerbated it. But, it doesn’t legitimize some of the actions based out of either emotion.

I understand the anger, and see some of it as not based on fear, but just anger. I wish Lyons had delved into that more.

SEIU union chief warns of GOP resurgence

Andy Stern claims that failure to have a public option in the national healthcare reform legislation will result in a GOP Congressional takeover in 2010.

He may be hyperventilating a little, but not necessarily a lot.

Whether it really does matter that much, without other price controls, a public option is a shibboleth and sine qua non for many liberal activists – who could stay home in swing districts.

Cash for clunkers clusterf*ck being ended

Considering how slow Team Obama had been to pay out on submitted claims, combined with how little info it gives dealers on why some claims are being rejectedk this is no surprise; in fact, dealers in some states were dropping out of the program, due to the glacial rate of reimbursement.

Probably not a good selling point for single-payer national healthcare in the US, either.

Blair wants world to get China on CO2 path

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is right indeed on the carbon-emissions progress China has already made in the past few years. And, I hope he’s right that their path puts them on no CO2 growth after 2030 — and that Beijing will commit to that.

Their 2050 time frame is too long, too far away.

Geothermal not a guaranteed alt-energy resource

The Obama Administration’s push to explore geothermal energy in northern California has fallen behind schedule.


Earthquake worries, based on what happened at a similar project in Switzerland.

Increasing earthquakes anywhere near the Bay Area is disturbing. Also disturbing is the project’s company Alta California, as it tries to distort and gloss over what happened in Switzerland.

And, beyond that, geothermal spots in general are in seismically sensitive areas!

Aryan Nations being revived?

As if some of the more nutty national healthcare protestors aren’t enough, this is serious.

Is Toyota right to hold off on all-electrics?

Business-wise, I say yes, its stance is smart.

An aging Japan offers little market; Europe’s not big on them; the US market is still fickle, and sprawled Chinese cities, like many US ones, need an electric with more battery life.

This, though, is NOT good business sense: Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s new president, is a big backer of fuel-cell cars. Hydrogen power is just as much “just around the corner” as is peaceful nuclear fusion.

Toyota needs to be careful it doesn’t become the new “old GM.”

Use antitrust law to cut health costs?

Steve Pearlstein says it could do more to lower costs than the “public option”:
To address the pricing power of the big hospital chains, the government could require that they offer the same set of prices to all private insurers. Congress could also toughen antitrust laws to make it more difficult for hospitals in the same region to merge and require the breakup of chains that charge rates that are significantly higher than in other markets.

Great idea, but campaign contribution dinero will kill that in a New York Times minute.

Zebra mussels hitting Dallas lakes?

This is NOT good news for the area, its environment, and the lakes-based water supply, if true.

August 19, 2009

Aug. 19 healthcare reform roundup

First, Rasmussen, a GOP-leaning polling outfit, saying support for heathcare reform drops sharply without a public option in the mix.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is still getting his ears pinned back, largely by previously naïve people.

Somewhat libertarian conservative Kathleen Parker, on the other hand, opines Go Shop Mackey. But, as the link above this notes, WallyWorld sells more organics than Whole Foods. And, you can buy brown rice and black beans at lots of places, for less money.

Then, Steve Pearlstein of all people says the public option is NOT a breaking point on this issue.

Lastly, Nat Hentoff, of all people, drinks the “death panel” Kool-Aid.

John Smoltz to Cardinals?

Interesting; Smoltz is apparently willing to be a set-up reliever, and Cards think he can do OK in 1-2 inning shots.
Well, at the least, she can’t beat Perry without it; it’s unlikely he can win the general, even if he gets the primary without it. More on what that means here.

Is Ted Olson man to overturn gay marriage ban?

Well, he certainly hopes to be, as this in-depth profiler shows in detail.

Meanwhile, three of four people asked about the timing of the issue by the Times said too, too early; the fourth said somebody was going to, anyway.

August 18, 2009

11 percent of Dems hold Sarah Palin in “high esteem”?


But, a Marist poll about The Quitter with a Twitter™ claims exactly that, among other things.

Black Swans author Nassim Nicholas Taleb a real nutbar

British Tory Party head David Cameron is enough a nutbar to suggest the UK could default on its national debt, but the Guardian shows he has nothing on Taleb. Economic crashes can be good? Even Schumpeter wasn’t that blunt. Oh, he’s a global warming denialist, too.

DNA evidence can be fabricated

Boy, these findings will have a world of criminology and ID theft fallout.

That said, your average criminal isn’t capable of this, and a good enough DNA test can tell if the DNA was fabricated or not.

Aug. 18 healthcare round-up

Congressional liberals have put their foot down and said “the healthcare bill has to have a public option.

Should Congress have to have the same health care as the rest of Americans? That’s the latest town hall question du jour, and not just from wingers.

Two WaPost liberal op-eders get antsy about Obama

Eugene Robinson decries “healthcare reform” that isn’t, while Robert Kuttner, who wants real populist anger that Obama simply will not “do,” despair of “change” from him. Notes Kuttner:
So where are the liberal protesters? The initiative has passed to the know-nothing right for two big reasons.

One is Obama himself. This president recoils from confrontation, even with those who are out to destroy him. He has had ample opportunities to put himself on the side of popular economic grievances and to connect America's economic troubles to the forces that Roosevelt called "economic royalists." But Obama, whose propensity for consensus is hard-wired, keeps passing up those opportunities.

Even now, he won't make clear that the private insurance industry is the problem. Recent administration statements on the "public" insurance option have been classics of mixed messaging. Obama's economic team is far too cozy with Wall Street, fanning populist suspicions.

Robinson, after wondering what the “essential” element is, if it’s not the public option, has more in Kuttner’s line:
If conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats are successful in nixing a public health insurance option and watering down other reforms, progressive voters have a right to ask why they went to such trouble to elect Democratic majorities and a Democratic president.

Did either one of these gents say that a year or more ago, though?

Battle for the Texas GOP future

The Dallas Morning News lays out everything at stake, for the Texas GOP, Texas in general, and, to some degree, for the national GOP, in the Kay Bailey Hutchison-Rick Perry gubernatorial showdown.

Obama-lovers in Texas GOP?

In an editorial on national ramifications of the Perry-Hutchison gubernatorial showdown, the Dallas Morning News claims the Texas Republican Party has both Sarah Palin-loving social conservatives and Barack Obama-loving moderates.

First, if that’s true, I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Second, to peg Obama as about the same on the political scale as a Texas Republican moderate might just be pretty damned accurate. Sadly.

Six questions for Hutchison

The Dallas Morning News, claiming it can smoke out Tricky Ricky Perry, wants to know Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s stances on six specific issues. So, when will the Snooze ask Tricky Ricky the same?

August 17, 2009

British NHS: Family docs, community clinic, provider choice

Aren’t all those things just what we want in a real American healthcare system, while paying less? Yet, nutbars still demonize plans to reform the system.

The pull quote by Ara Darzi, a former minister of health and a practicing NHS surgeon, now chair of surgery at Imperial College in London and Britain's ambassador for health and life sciences, and Tom Kibasi, an honorary lecturer at Imperial College, is near the end.
Fear is the weapon of choice for opponents of reform who have no substantive alternative to offer.

Exactly; yet, President Kumbaya doesn’t get that. Or, he’s already that far down the sellout road. (See “Daschle, Tom.”)

Missing: An Obama Medicare head

Medicare hasn’t had a permanent head honcho since Mark McKinnon left in late 2006. With ObamaCare and Congressional options all focused in part on reining in Medicare costs, you think President Barack Obama would have addressed this by now. But not yet.

“Interesting,” to say the least. “Baffling,” to go beyond that. Wanting independence from the White House is one issue

Douthat – Just say no to seniors

Scares about Social Security are just that. But Russ Douthat is right that Medicare is different, and we need to do something now, before demographics makes it near-impossible.

Aug. 17 healthcare round-up

The Obama White House now says HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “misspoke” when she said the public option wasn’t “essential.”

Misspoke? Deliberate trial balloon? Sacrificial lamb? All possibilities with this White House, which is about 25 percent Machiavellian and 75 percent befuddled on this issue, especially since another WH official says the media miscovered this.

WTF? It’s a talking heads show. No, she said what she said.

Good to see that Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a registered nurse, is among those saying keep it in on the public option.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman carefully explains the three main options to do better than we are now.

At the same time, north of the border, the Canadian Medical Association wants to tweak, or more its country’s national health coverage.

Obama Admin getting more serious on gay rights?

The Obama Administration has now made a federal court filling AGAINST the Defense of Marriage act, even while a previous amicus brief in favor of it works through the system.

August 16, 2009

Obama silent on public option; Jarrett jeered

President Barack Obama’s new New York Times healthcare column has nary a word on the public option. Claims that he still backs one, made to Kossacks by WH special advisor Valarie Jarrett, didn’t get her booed, though they would if she showed up tomorrow; she did take heat over The One’s torture-abetting.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is also junking the public option. Sounds like the sellout is official and coordinated.

Next question, per the mind of GOP Sen. Jim DeMint: How much of a Waterloo will Obama ultimately suffer and how much will he spin it?

Reviewed: 'The Evolution of God'

This book could, and should, have one of two alternative titles.

It’s either “Nonzero: The Religion Primer” or “The Evolution of Western Religious Thought.”

Why would either one of those be better?

First, what I recommend instead of this book. People looking for good scholarly insight into the evolution of human religious thought, from a well-grounded (and not overblown) evolutionary psychology perspective, should head to Scott Atran's "In Gods We Trust." He covers the ground on evolution of human thought in greater depth than does Wright.

On the first alternative title, in my opinion, Wright is a one-trick pony. He attempts to apply the idea of non-zero-sum game theory, as articulated in Nonzero, to every book he writes. First, it's debatable whether game theory at all, whether non-zero-sum or zero-sum, is even applicable to religion.

Second, even if it is applicable to some aspects of, say, psychology of religion, psychology of religion is NOT the same as religion from an evolutionary psychology perspective.

Third, behavioral psychology undercuts the alleged rationality of much human behavior upon which game theory is based.

Fourth, Wright once claims “interdependence” equals “non-zero-sumness.” Not necessarily, first of all, and secondly, he offers no proof for that.

The second alternative title?

This book is about the evolution of the three Western monotheisms. Because they are monotheisms, and emerged either from a polytheistic milieu (Islam) or from an earlier polytheistic stage (Judaism, and hence Christianity), the evolution of god within these religions is part and parcel of the evolution of the religion.

But, Wright never touches polytheistic Hinduism, still vibrant today, except for an offhand aside or two. Ditto on either the atheistic or nonatheistic sides of Buddhism.

So, in a more serious way than my comments on him as a one-trick pony, the book simply doesn’t live up to its title.

Beyond what I said above, there’s a couple of other issues. More below the jump link.

Wright says:

**However, after the (Israelite exile to Babylon), monotheism evolves into something much more laudable and inclusive. Now the exiles have returned to Jerusalem and Israel is in a secure neighborhood. It's part of the Persian empire and so are its neighbors. So you see a much sunnier side of God, with expressions of tolerance and compassion toward other nations. **

Really? So that was Ezra, servant of the "sunnier side of God," telling Jews to, tolerantly and compassionately, divorce their non-Jewish wives? And, let's not forget the split in the middle of the Maccabean war against those who just wanted religious freedom and those who wanted a nation, and internecine fighting.

That, in turn, relates to a larger issue.

Wright appears to see “progress” as part and parcel of evolution, whether neo-Darwinian biological evolution, or the evolution of religion/god. He even goes so far as to accept Dan Dennett’s claim (tremendously overstates, wholly unsubstantiated as of this time) that evolution is algorithmic. I suggest some Steve Gould and the word “contingency” for both Wright and Dennett.

This is clear in the biblical record, namely the revolt of the Maccabees? What if they don’t get lucky in their early battles against the Selucids? Then NONE of the three western monotheisms is likely to exist today.

However, Wright makes comments about the inevitability of religious progress on 201 and the moral growth of god on 206. Everybody in Sheol, or people who can’t accept twaddle in eternal hellfire? That’s “moral growth”? I think not.

The capper? He's a materialist who won't rule out a "higher purpose."

I was originally going to two-star this book. It doesn’t deserve that.

If you want a serious read on the evolution of the religious mindset among Homo sapiens, incorporating evolutionary psychology in a better and more in-depth way than does Wright, read Scott Atran’s “In Gods We Trust.” Not this.

Southwest muffed Frontier deal?

Contrary to what Southwest Airlines’ top management claimed just a day or two ago, its failed bid to get Frontier Airlines out of bankruptcy was NOT just, perhaps not even primarily, due to a pilots’ seniority wrangle.

Instead, with antitrust concerns, fleet concerns, and other things all weighing in the back of the minds of Frontier staff, and Frontier creditors, it appears that Southwest’s bid had little due diligence behind it, an observation reinforced by the fact Southwest ain’t talking further right now.

Boy the “golden” airline is just having one management snafu after another this year.

And, its reputation for being a go-to, if you will, to do a deal like this, also just took a hit.

Are Dallas constables doing a car shakedown?

Combine the latest news, about Dallas Constable Jaime Cortes and several of his deputies driving cars month after month on temporary tags, a high rate of towing vehicles, and a cozy relationship Cortes and fellow constable Derick Evans have with towing and impound company Dowdy Ferry Auto Services, which has contributed to both their campaigns, and this smells to high heaven.

2050 NOT acceptable for China on CO2

That’s the year when Beijing says it will start reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Maybe we can’t do anything, due to the massive amount of US debt China holds, but, I would love to see the European Union raise carbon tariff talks.

Here comes the Dems’ healthcare sellout

Yep, many inside the White House, and many in the Senate, are already preparing to fold the tent on the public option, even a modified one. So much for President Kumbaya’s brave talk of using the Senate budget reconciliation process.