SocraticGadfly: 9/13/09 - 9/20/09

September 19, 2009

EU smartly hedges climate control bets

The European Union has drawn up a list of industrial sectors to offer state support in case a world-wide climate deal doesn’t get done at Copenhagen in December.

Given that the toothless, Kyoto-cheating Waxman-Markey bill is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate in even emasculated form, that China is likely to foot-drag on committing to even long-term goals, and more, it’s a smart idea, economically, while staying committed to climate control principals.

Obama punts on chance to really discuss racial issues

No, I’m not black, and neither is President Jimmy Carter. But, folks like Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Jim Clyburn and John Lewis are. Now, they’ve not publicly said they disagree with President Barack Obama’s claim there is no racism behind even more vociferous opposition to him.

However, an unelected African-American intellectual leader like Eugene Robinson isn’t afraid to speak the truth in public. Neither is Bob Herbert.

No quickie Kumbaya Summit or Suds Summit could dive into this; and, we know Obama “doesn’t want the distraction” as he allegedly tries to give us a national healthcare bill. Well, I’m sure we’ll hear that for the next 3 1/2 years.

Conditional-love parenting doesn’t work, Dr. Phil

Showing Dr. Phil and others, who oppose Carl Rogers’ ideas, quite wrong, studies show that conditional-love parenting produces, in essence, conditional self-esteem in children.

I think there’s a lot to this story.

This ties directly to some of the work of Nathaniel Branden, father of the self-esteem movement. (The movement behind things like Character Counts, ultimately, and NOT the father of the false self-esteem movement of never confronting a child and giving everybody in class an A.)

This should also have implications for teachers, especially in younger grades.

And, to the degree support on the job, etc., can be more unconditional vs. less unconditional, I daresay it has connections to management, etc.

September 17, 2009

Has ‘false memory syndrome’ been proven or not?

People like Elizabeth Loftus claim ‘repressed memories’ simply don’t exist.

Their existence is again being challenged in court.

But, Ms. Loftus isn’t totally credible on the subject.

She was knocked out of being an expert witness Scooter Libby’s trial over the Valerie Plame CIA leak.

Why? In part because Judge Reggie Walton ruled that jurors should be able to decide for themselves on the reliability of a particular person’s memory without Scooter using Loftus as an expert witness precisely to make himself look more fallible.

But, during a hearing before Walton’s ruling, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald gave Loftus a once, and twice over.

And? He “picked apart the psychologist's testimony until she acknowledged errors and misstatements in her findings.”

That included admitting that some of her own findings were unscientific. Specifically:
Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense.

Now, I don’t view this as a sudden victory for touters of repressed memories. I do see it as a caveat that EVERY expert in the social sciences may be whistling in the dark at times.

We might have a way to test the idea further, and scientifically. The brain shows similar activity patterns even when details of an event can’t be recalled.

At the same time, showing how malleable memory is, a false video can affect real memory.


Update, March 1, 2020: And, although Loftus is referenced in this Nautilus piece? Overall, it would seem to partially refute her. Pre-5-year-old memories may be scrambled or hidden, and thus not totally reliable. But, they're not totally lost, and not totally unreliable, either.

For more on problematic issues with Loftus, go here, here and here.

Texas Rep. hypocritically whines about govt

Hey, Kevin Brady, if you want more DC Metro trains for the “tea party” last weekend (and Metro doesn’t boost train schedules for a LOT of events, I’ll bet), why don’t you figure out how to pay for them? Wouldn’t your whine be big-spending “conservativism”?

Racism on Hot Air blog

Other than their being anti-Semitic, I cannot figure out why commenters on this Hot Air post continually call Jon Stewart “Liebowitz.”

That said, while Kos may also have had some comment on Acorn’s problems, it is true that liberal bloggers have generally steered clear of the issue.

It’s also true that Ed Morissey’s readers are as biased, beyond the racism, as many other such blog followers, on claiming Stewart is some sort of liberal “tool.”

Enlarge the House? I love it

And a lawsuit seeks to compel at least a doubling in the size of the U.S. House of Representatives, to address the huge differences in representation population between different single-member states.

Beyond that constitutional reason, there’s other good reasons, all mentioned in the article — lower the power of incumbency, dilute the power of campaign cash from corporations and more. The only flip side is, this would likely increase the power of “presidentialism,” on the one hand, and of the Senate, on the other.

September 16, 2009

45 pct of docs claim will quit over natl healthcare

That said, I think the numbers in this poll are a big bluff. Or, to be more precise, the talk behind them is. It’s clear that IBD is “dredging” for ammunition.

Red Dreher calls Limbaugh out as racist

I couldn’t have said it better myself, but it’s nice to see a religious conservative pundit with a certain amount of credibility spell it out in black and white. Dreher worries that Limbaugh is going to keep digging lower, too.

Nanotech worriers not Luddite after all

New research indicates we just don’t know nearly everything yet about the effects of smaller-size nanotech particles inside the human body.

EU worried Obama Admin will ditch Kyoto

But, as the Guardian points out, because Barack Obama is not George W. Bush nobody in Europe wants to challenge his administration on the legalese-based sellout of the original Kyoto climate treaty, and by extension of the Copenhagen round of climate change control negotiations.

Cloud computing another strike against Team Obama

No, no, no, I do NOT want to work on documents and applications online, and I sure as hell do not want government promotion of cloud computing, especially given that the Obama Administration has just said it wants to extend major portions of the Patriot Act.

And, I sure as hell in spades don’t want a Google-government partnership on this. Google is not just becoming the new Microslob, it’s running right past that destination.

The GOP was first on national healthcare

No, seriously, even though there’s a bit of a trick to it.

The first major politician to advocate for a national healthcare system? Theodore Roosevelt.

Of course, when he tried to wrestle back GOP leadership from his disappointing hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, Taft turned to the GOP old guard bosses to deny him the 1912 nomination.

TR possibly also was the first major-party top-level politician, and certainly the first Republican one, to advocate for a social security system and unemployment insurance.

He also supported a minimum wage law well before it was established at the federal level, and seemed to want one high enough to at least approach modern “living wage” territory. He favored about 80-90 percent of what Britain’s Fabian socialists wanted.

That said, he never could get reconciled to the GOP old guard after his failed 1912 “Bull Moose” progressive run. (And, hated Robert LaFollette for stabbing him in the back during his GOP showdown at the convention.)

One of our two great GOP presidents.

September 15, 2009

New info on the whys of the Y chromosome

The way it divides during cell division is a major factor in a number of sex-related syndromes and conditions.

In light of that, other committee Dems are already poised to amend the bill.

When healthcare, immigration, race, collide

Michael Lind notes that part of the struggle over social safety network bills in the U.S. as compared to much of Europe and especially Scandinavia, is American racial hetereogeny. He has some provocative speculation and thoughts on the intersection of these issues.

Retail sales growth hits 3.5-year high

The August retail sales growth was the best since before the recession started. Independents, the poll says, remain high in their distrust of both major parties, and that number would include me.

Baucus healthcare bill ain’t pretty

Especially if cost control is supposed to be a goal, the bill that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mod Max Baucus is wrapping up is NOT reform.

In light of that, other committee Dems are already poised to amend the bill.

Placebo effect strengthens - as does schadenfreude

Some would-be new antidepressants can't get to market because they can't pass
clinical trials. They can't pass clinical trials because the placebo effect is
getting stronger.

No, it's not less effective drugs, and it's not just anti-Ds or anxiety drugs,
either. Non-psychotropics are having the same problem in a few instances, and
it's clear that, yes, the placebo effect is getting stronger.

And, that it varies in different parts of the U.S., and in different parts of
the world. And, that beyond just being given a pill, things like pill dosage
frequency and even COLOR of the pill are causative factors.

That said, my first feeling for Big Pharma was, of course, schadenfreude.

The full story is here. And, later on, it notes how Big Pharma is now studying the placebo effect to, of course, try to make a buck off of it.

Two new Ayn Rand bios reviewed

The New Republic has a good introductory take on both the books and their subject.

September 14, 2009

Federer joins Woods in ‘huh’ territory

Roger Federer, tennis’ answer to Tiger Woods, joined Tiger in the unbelievable today: A come from ahead loss of a major championship, and like Tiger in the PGA, to a relatively unheralded foe.

Wall Street exec pay to go on trial

And, good! A federal judge has rejected a deal between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bank of America. NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is already lining up state-level charges.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, in his ruling, found that the settlement "suggests a rather cynical relationship between the parties: the SEC gets to claim that it is exposing wrongdoing on the part of the Bank of America in a high-profile merger, the bank's management gets to claim that they have been coerced into an onerous settlement by overzealous regulators. And all this is done at the expense, not only of the shareholders, but also of the truth."

He also called the deal “not remotely fair.”
"I've never seen this," said James Cox, a Duke University law professor and securities law expert. "To me, it's long overdue," he added. "It's truly a come-to-Jesus moment for Bank of America and its relationship with its various officers," Duke Cox said. "They need to hang up a scalp or two."

Or half a dozen scalps. I love it!

And, I’m glad a judge got, in essence, mad as hell to force this.

Now, let’s see what comment the Obama Administration SEC, or Department of Justice, has tomorrow.

Obama healthcare speech buys some space

Some, but not a lot. Independents, the poll says, remain high in their distrust of both major parties, and that number would include me.

From the left, I still don’t expect Obama to deliver a public option in the end. From the point of true realism, I don’t expect anybody in GOP or Democratic ranks to really tackle costs.

In the end, both issues, and many others, will all get punted down the road to an indeterminate future date, I’m sure.

The public option is a clear case of what to do.

On costs? A variety of issues.

Driving down med school education costs. Promoting more loan forgiveness in exchange for community service medicine. Encouraging more GPs. Tackling fee-for-service medicine. More purchasing co-ops for high-dollar equipment. More insurance regulation — on medical malpractice insurers; will save more than tort reform.

And, that’s just off the top of my head.

J Street takes on old Israel lobby

So far, the upstart J Street, which in part aims to break “no distance” linkage between the U.S. and Israeli governments, is doing a decent job for a start-up shop. Read all the details of their work and organization

September 13, 2009

Public option dying with Snowe supporting reform lite

Tyler Cowan, saying we have created a financial-regulatory complex about as dangerous as the military-industrial one, dislikes the Big Pharma “deal” part of Obamacare. Precisely because it makes drugmakers now, like Goldman Sachs, “too big to fail.”

Meanwhile, because President Barack Obama won’t get specific about just what “public option” means to him, it continues to slowly fade away, as we could get healthcare “reform” that has the good as the enemy of the best.

On that line, Frank Rich discusses “<Obama’s squandered summer,” while GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe supports some reform plan, but only if it is option-free.

That said, it’s going to come together.

Obamacare will get past the Senate.

Bob Dole admits “Clintoncare” probably should have been passed when he was Senate Minority Leader; he’s trying to make up for that now, and that will help a public option-free plan, at least.

Rahm Emanuel will lean on House progressives to cave on the public option. Some will, and a handful of House GOPers in suburban Midwestern districts will vote yes while looking over their 2010 shoulders.

Fire the regulators?

A new NYT’s column suggests that as part of the solution for how we got into this fiscal mess in the first place.

Tyler Cowan then piles on, riffing on Ike by noting we have created a financial-regulatory complex about as dangerous as the military-industrial one. And, he notes that alleged financial reform won't be, unless this is fixed.

Finally, Robert Frank is the latest from the Times to note how the Alan Greenspans of the economic world were just wrong in failing to account for human illogic.

Recession 2009 and race

Barbara Ehrenreich, who is due to have a new book out debunking positive thinking, especially of the religious variety, says that for many black Americans, the recssion that started nine years ago never really ended.

RIP Norman Borlaug

Dead at 95, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1970 for being “ the father of the green revolution.”

I had the chance to see his Nobel medal two and a half years ago at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. As many as 1 billion people in the developing world today may have him to thank.

And, I can appreciate Borlaug’s work while also pointing out the failure in trying to make him a closet libertarian. Reason magazine hoists itself by its own petard, and, a number of its readers show themselves clueless of paleoanthropology and other matters scientific; so much for "intelligent libertarian" stereotypes.

To that end, in the NYT’s obit, Borlaug directly answers the Reason folks who would use him to debunk Paul Ehrlich, with him saying we still need to address population growth.

Borlaug also partially accepted critics’ comments about the possible overuse of fertilizers.

Finally, the story notes Borlaug spent his last years battling a new variety of wheat rust, the disease apparently “beaten” with his work in Mexico.

The “salvific technologism” of Reason types may just be trumped again, and not for the first time.