SocraticGadfly: 10/25/09 - 11/1/09

October 31, 2009

Senate ‘shield law’ weak tea

In order to get Obama Administration support for a federal “shield law” for journalists, the Senate has greatly diluted the House version. The worst part? Unpublished notes, etc. will not be protected. Any federal prosecutor with brains can figure out who talked to you, from that, in many cases.

And, once again, this should not surprise you about Team Obama!

‘Too big to fail’ is not acceptable

The New York Times has a great editorial, on why the financial regulatory bill that came out of Barney Frank’s House Banking Committee (remember, he generally supported the Glass-Steagall repeal in 1998) is flawed, flawed, flawed.

Remember, a Dem doesn't have to be a "Blue Dog" to have "issues."

Multi-year Arctic ice gone? BAD news for polar bears

If this is the case, and I don’t doubt that it is, it’s a very direct refutation of global-warming denialists.

The assertion was made by David Barber, Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba:
“We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere,” he said in a presentation in Parliament.

Barber spoke shortly after returning from an expedition that sought — and largely failed to find — a huge multiyear ice pack that should have been in the Beaufort Sea off the Canadian coastal town of Tuktoyaktuk. Instead, his ice breaker found hundreds of miles of what he called “rotten ice” — 50-cm (20-inch) thin layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice.

This is additional bad news for polar bears on two counts.

Not only does it mean they have little ice on which to hunt seals, the rush will now be on to “exploit the possibilities” of shipping not only across Canada’s fabled Northwest Passage, but, across the North Pole, to do the same with Russia’s Northeast Passage.

Canadian scientists are already familiar with how too much human presence can stress out isolated populations of grizzlies. I would guess shipping traffic would have similar effects on polar bears.

Of course, some will move south, and become year-round land animals — if they can hold off grizzlies moving north, and adapt their diets. A few of them, as we now know is possible, will interbreed, hastening the demise of polar bears as a separate species, while raising biological questions.

October 30, 2009

Doesn't Mark Sanford have more to do than Ayn Rand reviews?

And, couldn't Newsweek get someone a tad less hypocritical on the issue of integrity than the South Carolina governor to review the works of an author who, if nothing else, is theoretically all about integrity?

How will abstinence-oinly sex ed do on its own dime?

With the Obama Administration cutting off the federal gravy train (and wasn't that "socialism," you tea partiers and others?), it's a very good question. At the link, Newsweek discusses the issue further.

And, as usual, although George W. Bush gets all the blame, federal funding started with Triangulating Slick Willie, specifically as part of the 1996 welfare-reform bill. (Insert joke here.)

Honduras appears to have presidential solution - or does it?

The government of interim President Roberto Micheletti signed off on a deal to let exiled (ex)-President Manuel Zelaya back into power, but Honduras' Congress may not accept the deal. After all, it just has to run out the clock for four weeks until the country's Nov. 29 elections, then, as a combination of a consolation prize and a slap in the face, let Zelaya back in power then for the last month until the next president takes over.

Scat, aggressive coyotes

Actually, a look at coyote scat, by determining what a local population is eating, can make at least some guesstimate as to their aggressiveness toward humans.

Could this man start new Iran protests?

The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is doing a “special investigation” of prominent cleric Mehdi Karroubi over his allegations that security forces raped and tortured protestors this summer.

EU hopes to break climate talks deadlock

Good luck with these hopes, especially given splits between richer and poorer EU members on helping other countries. Realistically, Slovakia or Bulgaria paying to help nations not necessarily that much poorer than them to control CO2?

I say that, given the current state of things, and the EU being in the lead on carbon-emissions reduction, we’re better off with the EU setting carbon tariffs against both China and the US.

Tony the Pony NOT a lock as EU prez

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is finding his shot at the European Union presidency taking a sudden swan dive, primarily due to lack of support from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Why? Politics. The two want a leader from one of Europe’s center-right parties, like themselves.

Also hurting Blair’s candidacy — Britain being outside the Eurozone. What puzzles m e is why this hasn’t been held against him all along. Especially since he never did hold up his promise to push this.

Interestingly, parties of the center-left in Europe have kind of written off the presidency already, and are focusing on the EU foreign ministry. Read the full Guardian article for more such details.

October 29, 2009

Bitter fruits of the Anbar Awakening

Gen. David Petraeus’ “bucks for loyalty” program in Iraq is starting to bear sour fruit and may be partially connected to the recent Baghdad bombings.

Former Tel Afar, Iraq, mayor Najim Abed al-Jabouri has some reform suggestions. But, are they possible?

Sounds like Afghanistan 2009

When did U.S. and NATO Afghanistan theater commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal say this?
“There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another. Nevertheless much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centers, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize. Our soldiers are not to blame. They’ve fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills.”

And, how soon before his “surge” request was it?

Answers? It wasn’t him, so, “never.”

Rather, per they column, they were spoken by Sergei Akhromeyev, the commander of the Soviet armed forces, to the Soviet Union’s Politburo on Nov. 13, 1986.

Food for thought, Mr. President Obama.

And, spend the money you save on building more Afghan schools.

Obama shifts targets on stimulus

Now, with the economy officially out of recession by economic growth definition, the Obama Administration says, thank the stimulus bill. Well, of course. That lets the administration ignore how many or how few jobs have been created so far, how many companies are overstating job creation and more.

And with the end or ending of some stimulus items, like cash for clunkers and the housing tax credit, we may well have a “W”-shaped double recession.

Talking Points Memo further deepens “old media”-style reporting

With a post like this, progressive blog/online news source TPM’s latest news (newishness) about intra-Democratic national healthcare discussions, you’re about to Washington Post/New York Times level on the use of anonymous sources.

We have, in just a few hundred words:
But according to sources briefed on White House-Senate health care negotiations … According to a source briefed on White House-Senate health care negotiations … According to a separate source close to both parties … On the morning of the meeting, anonymous sources … "Reid actually asked Schumer to make the pitch," the first source said. … Multiple sources--including Schumer himself--now dispute this interpretation.

That’s SIX uses of anonymous sources in 750 words.

I guess the “new media” ain’t so new, after all, when it gets to a certain point inside the Beltway, eh?

October 28, 2009

Afghanistan needs less US, more UN

First, Tom Friedman makes eminent sense. He says most major changes in the Middle East have happened when the US is NOT involved, and “nation building” in Afghanistan will surely fit the same pattern.
The U.S. military has given its assessment. It said that stabilizing Afghanistan and removing it as a threat requires rebuilding that whole country. Unfortunately, that is a 20-year project at best, and we can’t afford it. So our political leadership needs to insist on a strategy that will get the most security for less money and less presence. We simply don’t have the surplus we had when we started the war on terrorism after 9/11 — and we desperately need nation-building at home.

Yes, shrinking down in Afghanistan will create new threats, but expanding there will, too. I’d rather deal with the new threats with a stronger America.

Nice to hear Friedman spell that out in detail.

At the same time, that self-driven nation-building, if it’s to be done by a democracy, has to have a democracy based on honest, fair elections. And, per Peter Galbraith, that’s where and why more UN is needed. Especially now that we know President Hamid Karzai’s corrupt brother is on the CIA payroll, I have no doubt that Galbraith is right and the chances of election fraud are still way too high, and that the UN’s actions to stem it, before the original election round, were pitiful.

Frankly, if the UN won’t monitor the election better, and President Barack Obama did want to inject more US into the mix, he’d send American election monitors, while officially and ostentatiously cutting off Wali Karzai’s gravy train.

US suborns Afghan corruption

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother is on the CIA payroll. Ahmed Wali Karzai is also believed to be a major player in Afghan opium smuggling.
“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” the American officer said of Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”

And, given the part of Afghanistan in which he’s most active, he’s probably connected with the Taliban, too.

October 27, 2009

Kids with autism have LOWER mercury levels

Attention, Jenny McCarthy — read this.

Antidepressants work instantly

What’s up, then, with the normally reported four-six week time lag? British researchers say they start to work immediately, but only at the subconscious level. It takes the “time lag” level for their effect to hit consciousness.

Poetic thoughts on newspapers, tech and punditry

The tombstone silence
Of the quiet places
In a not-so-noisy daily newspaper
Are symbolic.
Symbolic of death by technology,
Death by over-technology,
Death by technomancy.
Anti-Luddites say
The news will always be there.
But, who will pay?
Donations will only go so far
In a Balkanized “information” world,
Subscriptions remain anathema to many,
And, the Googleization of online text ads
Means there’s little money there.
So blogs consolidate,
Between a precious few New Media “winners”
And detritus eates of the Old Media,
Whie Twitterers blithely tweet.
What’s new?
New information,
Or just new communications speech,
Whether news, information, or misinformation?
You know that, but
“They,” of media both old and new,
As well as pundits thereof,
Won’t admit it.
And so, per a ’60s rock song,
The media is still the same.

Passivity adding to pain of economic problems?

Bob Herbert says many Americans’ passivity, stemming from a refusal to accept personal responsibility for many things in recent years, is part of why the current recession, H1N1 flu worries, etc. all feel so painful..
Being an American has become a spectator sport.

I’d say that’s more on the right, tea-party activism aside, than on the left. You re-elected the guy who rang up massive deficits, who presided over the housing and other booms and bubbles, and who then initiated much of the government-funded set of bailouts for which you blame President Obama. (I have no doubts Bush would have bailed out GM, at least; less sure about Chrysler.)

Scientologists lose French suit

Scientology is now officially a fraud in France. Break out the schadenfreude. And, I think U.S. law would allow for similar suits here — with similar verdicts — while not infringing the First Amendment.

Afghanistan – opposing war views

First, Matthew Hoh, a former Marine captain and a (now former) Foreign Service officer, has quit.


He says he no longer understands why we are there, but thinks our presence is fueling Afghan insurgency.

Beyond that, he says that we are, in essence, involved in a civil war. He claims dozens of different insurgent groups are in Afghanistan, most of them locally based and focused, on a provincial or district level. And, he cites the corruption of Afghan President Hamid Karzai as driving the local groups, in part:
Hoh's doubts increased with Afghanistan's Aug. 20 presidential election, marked by low turnout and widespread fraud. He concluded, he said in his resignation letter, that the war "has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency."

The full story is well worth a read.

Across the pond from the U.S., though, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband supports his government’s sending 500 more troops there, and Roger Cohen hopes this means U.S. President Barack Obama will eventually implement some sort of U.S. increase.

Can’t Cards “just say no” to Big Mac?

Sorry, Tony La Russa, but I don’t really want Mark McGwire to be your next hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

More seriously yet, what can a guy who never sniffed a batting title, who took enough steroids to hit more extra-base hits than singles, and who couldn’t get 2,000 career hits, teach young batters? He may or may not be beter than Hal MacRae, but he ain't that good

Update: Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has a great column on this subject. Your No. 1 pull quote is near the end of the column:
La Russa has been the steroid era’s foremost ostrich.

That leads to this follow-up:
He may believe that if he declares McGwire’s past off-limits, and McGwire does the same, the issue will go away. ... Only McGwire is the exception. Steroids define him more than Alex Rodriguez(notes), more than David Ortiz, more than Ramirez – nearly as much as Bonds.

Passan calls on Big Mac to be a “real hero” on this issue, but I ain't holding my breath.

Why? Why? Why?

My guess is, after dithering about whether to return or not, 2010 is Tony the Red’s last year as Cardinal skipper, and this is his good-bye present to Big Mac: an attempted shot at repentance-free atonement.

Meanwhile, Ozzie Smith stands as still marginalized by La Russa. And, the Wiz, who learned how to hit within himself under Whitey Herzog, could teach more about hitting than McGwire.

Now, he probably is not looking for that position. But, this has to be another slap.

When will the NFL address gay-slurring players?

The latest? Kansas City Chiefs RB Larry Johnson.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has gotten tougher on players running afoul of the law, but has yet to do a thing on this issue. Not that there haven’t been enough incidents to clearly bring it to light.

Update: I guess the NFL IS doing something.

October 26, 2009

Super Freak-o-Lies exposed

Statisticians are now weighing in about the specific global warming denalist untruths of Super Freakonomics:
In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

“If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect,” said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

In fact, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner may have to eat the words of their subtitle by the end of next year. Due to expectations the current El Niño will get stronger in 2010, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt predicts 2010 may break 2005’s (NOT 1998’s, you denialists) record for hottest recorded year.

Do NOT stay at Whitten Inn in Abilene. Texas

Its owner, Larry Whitten, appears to be an anti-Hispanic racist bigot. Forbidding Hispanic employees from speaking Spanish. Trying to force some of them to change their names.

One-third of U.S. healthcare costs wasted

That staggering number, as high as $800 billion a year, is the finding of a new study by Thomson Reuters. Too much paperwork costs 6 percent, but the biggest?

Overuse of antibiotics and lab tests. The antibiotic overuse, of course, has given us things like MSRA, on the health side, and it and the lab tests, etc., are as much as 37 percent of the wastage.

Obama dissing Fox to appear liberal?

Over at Newsweek, Jon Meacham has a very interesting thesis — the Obama Administration’s dust-up with Fox News is a way of appearing liberal without actually doing anything liberal.

And, if this is part of the strategy, it surprises me not one whit. I would not even be surprised if I found out Team Obama and Fox were coordinating this for the alleged benefit of both.

But, Meacham goes beyond that, to say we are past both FDR and Ronald Reagan in political alignments today.

Stop the cover-up, Mr. President

The New York Times tells President Obama to come clean on “enhanced interrogation,” and not just what the Bush Administration did, but what it may be doing, or trying to do, too.

H1N1 ‘national emergency’? I think not

So, it’s killed 5,000 people globally. How many people have died from complications of Type II diabetes during that time? Do we declare it a “national emergency”?

No, because politicians want campaign cash from Monsanto and ADM.

British myth and ethos take two blows

First, new historical research says that Henry V’s big victory over the French at Agincourt wasn’t an upset at all, contra British royal and national mythology.

Second, could Pope Benedict XVI’s wide-open arms to Anglicans shatter the myth of the Church of England actually being that? I didn’t know that Catholics already outnumber Anglicans in the UK.

In any case, A.N. Wilson thinks it would be nothing but good news if the Church of England were, in fact, disestablished.

October 25, 2009

Big Mac to teach Redbirds how to juice?

Sorry, Tony La Russa, but I don’t really want Mark McGwire to be your next hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

More seriously yet, what can a guy who never sniffed a batting title, who took enough steroids to hit more homers than singles, and who couldn’t get 2,000 career hits, teach young batters?