SocraticGadfly: 9/27/09 - 10/4/09

October 03, 2009

Glad somebody agrees with me on McChrystal

Bruce Ackerman also says he is hugely politicizing his position and needs to rein himself in.

If not, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, or President Obama himself, need to do what’s necessary, Ackerman says. Totally agreed here.

Ahmadinejad the Jew!

Who would have thunk? But true: His parents converted to Islam after he was born. So, Iran’s headed by someone who Adolf Hitler, at least, would have defined as a Jew.

Let's see him explain this one, if it gets to be common knowledge inside Iran.

October 02, 2009

Will Chrysler be dead in a year?

If the economy stays this bad off, it’s quit possible Fiat is struggling itself and can only pond so much money down Chrysler’s sandhole.

The White House has no cojones – MSM

Dana Milbank reports on Helen Thomas and the emperor’s lack of new cojones.

Beck the new Buckley?

Boy, conservative bloviating is really in the tank when a guy from American Enterprise Institute can make that claim.

Mission NOT accomplished on recession

Paul Krugman, anticipating Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke imitating flyboy George W. Bush from summer 2003 and declaring the recession, like the Iraq war, as “over,” pre-emptively takes him to the woodshed. He then pounds the drums for more federal stimulus, even citing the deficit-averse IMF in his favor.

Of course, the dishonest conservatives who claim FDR made the Depression worse (not true, he cut unemployment in half his first term, only to THEN worsen it again by trying to balance the budget) don’t want to listen.

Behind the curtain, ‘wizard’ Beck has no power

And, it’s David Brooks saying that, pointing to last year’s GOP primaries, and how McCain got the nod despite vociferous animosity from Beck, Limbaugh, et al.

Perhaps Democrats ought to do more ignoring of Beck-type trolls.

On the other hand:
But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power.

But, Brooks ties this to GOP decline, too. Read the whole thing.

October 01, 2009

Should we subsidize newspapers?

I'm worried about benign paternalism more than actual active interference, but The Nation argues that newspapers need a direct tax infusion, as is the case in Europe.

That said, to avoid partisanship like we've had over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting budget, along with those of NEA, NEH, etc., we'd have to launch this program with a multi-year budget.

That said, while PBS is not a total lapdog, it's not the best example that could be cited, either? Or NPR. They're perhaps better than commercial networks, but not great.

Govt support can ONLY go to entities that declare themselves nonprofit, is one stipulation -- with strict definitions of what nonprofit is, like, say Pacifica.

No, no, no to ‘non-profit’ newspaper start-ups

Among other things, pay in corner office suites is NOT so “non-profit,” as Jack Shafer notes.

Second, some of these start-ups leaning heavily on student interns means an unfair wage advantage, AND poorer news quality; see here for more.

Third, back to Shafer. Non-profit journalism is at the whims of its donors just as corporate journalism is at the whims of its owners.

Beyond Shafer: Yes, a Talking Points Memo has been successful with fund drives, but despite the Wal-Mart touch, how many readers will pay — and pay and pay and pay — to become “donors” rather than simply subscribing?

In that vein, non-profit papers are no more ready to address the paywall situation than are “old media” newspapers, it seems. And, so, will be not much more successful at new media hoops until they do.

On the other hand, the idea of just letting newspapers die is stupid in general, and is “rich” coming from someone at Newsweek, struggling more than a lot of newspapers.

Gates iffy on more troops in A-stan

He’s not opposed to the idea, but wants to give it careful study before signing off.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan theater commander Stanley McChrystal continues to publicly and openly call for more troops. Gen. McC should remember that the man who hired him for his current position can also fire him.

St. Paul and temporal lobe epilepsy

I’ve often said that I think his visions, as well as those of other prophetic-type religious leaders, may have been driven by temporal-lobe epilepsy. More confirmation? Temporal-lobe epilepsy’s connection to feelings of sexual desire.

September 30, 2009

China being removed from Nixon?

Or, at least, reshuffled. Controversy over statues of China's Communist leaders Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai inside the Nixon Library is all part of its transition from private control to coming under the operation of the National Archives, like other presidential libraries.

What the story says about its private owners "spinning" Tricky Dick's legacy is totally true. I was there less than a month after Mark Felt outed himself as Deep Throat, and the library had not a word about it.

NAFTA being used as lever to force private healthcare in Canada

Boy, of all the toxic fallout from NAFTA, this has to be high on the list, possibly the highest north of the US border.

Four Klamath dams coming down

Wow, this is big. It won't be done for more than a decade, but Northern California salmon can eventually swim easier. That said, California will have to be in better economic shape to float a $250M bond to pay to help the removal!

Gore Vidal rages against the machine

In an interview with the Times (London), Vidal regrets switching from Hillary to Obama, provides some very interesting thoughts and definitions on gay life and culture, says Obama is enough of a flop a dictatorship may come, and more.

Two meters and counting on sea rise

To be precise, on the sea rise expected from global warming.

To be more precise yet, on the unpreventable sea rise expected from global warming. More than that, we can prevent. If we will.

Palin a tough sell on lecture circuit

Even the in-the-bag conservative paper the New York Post notes that many conservatives, even are wary of her on the fried=chicken stump.

Actually, folks like Budweiser and Jack Daniel's ought to support her tour. Even a lot of dyed-in-the-wool Republicans will probably have to be pretty bagged to sit through a talk by her.

September 29, 2009

New quasi-VAT another reason to avoid California

The California Commission on a 21st Century Economy, charged with stablizing the Leaden State's year to year tax revenue stream, is proposing something similar to a European value-added tax, only worse.

Worse because of the lack of exemptions. Worse because of the flattening of income tax rates at the same time. Worse because it will greatly benefit the rich. Worse because it does nothing to address Prop. 13 and other property tax issues.

Negotiate with Iran, don’t propose more sanctions

Beyond noting China and Russia won’t back sanctions with any teeth, Flynt Leverett says now is the time for Obama to duplicate the Nixon-to-China gambit.

He has a number of good thoughts, including saying a fair amount of Iran’s anti-America “paranoia” actually has at least some basis in reality.

Is socialism dead in Europe? Ehh, probably not

First, America’s MSM likes to whip out a story like this every once in a while, just out of knee-jerk reflex.

You’ll note that, first of all, it doesn’t even discuss Eastern Europe outside the former East Germany. Nor does it discuss Scandanavia.

Next, it cites whatever analysts it does to claim globalism has made Socialism irrelevant. Neoliberal bullshit, in other words.

Third, it gives scant attention to what it is forced to admit, that Socialism appears dead because conservative parties have co-opted more and more of its ideas.

Sarko mocks nuclear-free Obama dream

At the UN General Assembly, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in essence, said U.S. President Barack Obama needs to rethink his specifics-free nuclear disarmament idea and start living in the real world. And, he’s right, overall.

The Wall Street Journal op-ed page now weighs in, with its own winger twist. What took so long?

Even if nuclear disarmament is a nice idea, it doesn’t square with today’s reality.

And, like other Obama ideas, on specifics, “Where’s the beef?”

Or, “Where’s the reality-based community?”

Science is not always the answer to food needs

You could also file this under “milking cows for far more than they’re worth.”

New techniques allow semen differentiation to greatly increase the heifer-bullock ratio in cow conceptions. This was especially focused on the dairy biz.

After all, in beef cattle, you can always snip a bull into a steer. But, jokes aside, you still can’t milk him.

Just one problem. This alleged technological godsend has come along just as prices for milk have cratered. And, there’s already too many milk cows on the market.

Additional Iran sanctions? Toothless

Just the opposite of a MasterCard moment, the Obama Administration’s proposed additional sanctions against Iran are anything but priceless. Travel bans? Financial freezes? Ways around them.

The energy issues? If it’s about gasoline refining, Iran is working to build additional domestic refining capacity as we speak, and if it gets pinched for time, Russia will probably help out.

Income gap increases with recession

Well, so much for fatuous reporting a month or two ago, about how the top 10 percent bracket, or even the top 1 percent, was taking such a “haircut.”

Nope, everybody BUT the top 10 percent has gotten that buzz cut.

Prosecutors should not be immune from suits

Especially not suits for willingly confabulating “evidence” in order to jail innocent people. I think that they ought to have only the narrowest of qualified immunity, even, and certainly not absolute immunity.

I also think they ought to be subject to criminal as well as civil proceedings, and that, on both criminal and civil sides, the statute of limitations clock should not start ticking until the day the wrongfully imprisoned are released.

If you’re Arab, don’t run for the airplane bathroom

In fact, as this incident shows, right now, if I were of Middle Eastern descent and flying, I wouldn’t even use an airplane bathroom. I would drink no caffeine, or alcohol, and eat and drink lightly in general before flying, to make sure that were possible, the not using the bathroom.

Pseudolib Obama suck-up-itis alive and well

Booman Tribune claims to see a deep and well-thought strategy by President Barack Obama on national healthcare, carefully finding a way to eventually get a “public option” in the final, post-House/Senate conference on whatever bill(s) come out.

I claim to see an Obama opium pipe in Booman Tribune’s hand.

Which of us is right?

I’m betting on me, not him.

September 28, 2009

More on why torture doesn't work

The stress causes memory loss, specifically shown in waterboarding.

Two-thirds of Americans optimistic about recovery

A new Gallup Poll reports 65 percent of Americans expect at least partial economic recovery within 12 months. That said, the poll did NOT break out options, such as fair amount vs. mild amount of recovery in that time.

Cassandras of climate

Paul Krugman notes that, the real reason many American business and political interests are climate change denialists is either vested interests, or even more, vested ideas, just like the bashing of Keynesianism.

And, out of the blue, denialist Bjorn Lonborg bashes the idea of cutting CO2 emissions, claiming it will be more harm than help.

Will CO2 cuts hurt world much more than they help?

Global warming denialist Bjorn Lonborg, while not admitting he’s a denialist, bashes the idea of cutting CO2 emissions, claiming it will be more harm than help to the world.

He cites the specter of economic protectionism, and claims the costs of radical CO2 cuts will be nearly $50 trillion, because “climate protectionism” will cost that much. Of course, he has no proof for such numbers.

Merkel will be cautious on new agenda

Angela Merkel, soon to be officially installed into her second term as German chancellor, is unlikely to adopt Free Democrats’ more radical ideas. Expect m ore friendlyness toward nuclear power plants, some modest tax cuts far short of what the FDP wants, and little change on Germany unemployment policies.

Will more Iran sanctions backfire?

Roger Cohen, an astute Iran observer, says its likely.

First, he says they will feed Iranian paranoia. Second, despite President Barack Obama’s dramatic G20 announcement, he notes Russia, China — and even Germany, Iran’s other large trading partner — don’t seem too committed.

Any additional sanctions would be less than those against Iraq, and we saw how much American companies, including a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s own Halliburton, cheated on them, as well as international companies cheating.

1998 was NOT hottest year on record

In an aside in his latest column, Paul Krugman notes that, per NASA records, 2005 gets that honor. So, once again, climate change denialists, shut up until you have actual evidence. Because, I'll be remembering this one whenever I need to dialogue with denialists.

September 27, 2009

Honduras fights back against isolation

Yes, the current government of Roberto Micheletti may not have perfectly handled the ouster of Manuel Zelaya, but, I’m glad its fighting back against attempts by the OAS and member states to isolate it more.

Brazilian President Silva has a bit of nerve with his comments, given we still don’t know what part any officials in his country had in Zelaya’s return to Honduras last week.

China going greener

As Tom Friedman notes, China’s major commitment to green power is twofold — Beijing recognizes major climate-change problems at home, and it sees the green of dollar signs, through exporting green manufactured products.

Result? By the end of this year, China should pass us as the No. 1 producer of wind power. Another “decline and fall” moment for the U.S.?

Obama has no timeline on Afghan troops decision

Bob Woodward reports President Barack Obama first has a series of national security strategy meetings scheduled before making any decision. Is Obama refusing to set a decision timetable to lean on Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal on his threat to quit if he doesn’t get all the troops he wants?

Meanwhile, Frank Rich reminds us not only of Afghanistan-Vietnam parallels, but that, through his choice of “advisors” such as Fred Kagan, McChrystal had politicized his job well before his carefully-leaked threat to quit if he didn’t get more troops.

So, if Obama is making him wait, and sweat, and cool his heels, good.

What the NYT is missing on national healthcare

This story, and every other one like it, in talking about the Senate Finance Committee, or the Senate as a whole, on national healthcare, that fails to mention the budget reconciliation option, to bypass a filibuster threat, is bad reporting.