SocraticGadfly: 11/8/09 - 11/15/09

November 14, 2009

Copenhagen climate round gutted

In one sense, this decision is political realism, both here in the US and internationally.

On the domestic side, I hope that President Obama and Congress use the breathing space to get serious about a jobs bill. Out of both political need and political smarts.

Dear GOP: If you want more A-stan troops, cough up the bucks

It’s that simple. For that matter, the same applies to you, Mr. President.

It’s about the jobs, Obama and Democrats

Both Bob Herbert and Charles Blow recognize and stress that.

That said, on Obama’s job summit, or Senate Majority Leader Reid’s jobs bill, what sort of jobs? How much help to get them?

You’re losing the country’s confidence.

Child abuse affects the child brain

More and more, through things such as human physiological research, specifically on suicide victims, and discussed more here, it’s clear that child abuse, especially to younger children, can change both the structure of the human brain and how it expresses itself.

The first study, albeit with very small numbers, focues on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function, as this is one of the most important stress “pathways” in the body.

Results revealed that genes associated with the good functioning of this pathway had been modified extensively as opposed to those found in the other 24 bodies, which ruled out the possibility of suicide causing these changes.
“In humans, childhood abuse alters HPA stress responses and increases the risk of suicide,” Michael Meaney of McGill Univeristy says in the new paper published in a recent edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

A “known” thing, now getting initial research confirmation.

The more detailed review of Meaney’s work indicates that early child abuse changed the expression of a gene that is important for responding to stress. In other words, it resets a person’s “anxiety thermostat.”

Nothing corny about global warming

Literally, that is. Due to corn’s temperature sensitivity, global warming could severly hit US corn harvests, barring some lucky new round of genetic engineering.

November 13, 2009

German tourists' remains found in Death Valley?

German boyfriend and girlfriend tourists, and their two kids, who had the "bright" idea of taking a minivan on some of Death Valley National Park's worst unpaved roads, in the summer of 1996, went missing. Their apparent remains have apparently finally been found.

"Bright"? Three of the four tires on the minivan were shredded; the fourth was loose from its wheel.

Palin goes 'rogue' on facts

The AP gives her a thorough checking, and finds, among other things, that she blames Bush II-initiated bailouts all on Obama, claims Reagan abolished estate taxes and more, including glossing over her big-donor campaign money and Alaskan ethics issues.

Could US-China talks spur climate agreement?

Oh, the idea sounds optimistic on paper, or in the paper, but, color me somewhat skeptical. That said, Copenhagen climate summit expectations are now so low, any achievement at all next week between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao would get trumpeted.

Easy on the drones, Obama

Ed Cohen notes President Barack Obama’s high use of Predator drones is another case of a big difference between Obama the candidate and Obama the president. He also says we need to be talking more about ethical issues behind drone use.

Indian claims global warming NOT melting Himalaya glaciers

Well, claims like this are a guarantee New Delhi will go slow on wanting to address global warming.

Obama immigration plan includes amnesty

Hmm, in the middle of a high-unemployment recession, I am wondering how amnesty for 12 million illegal aliens will play in Peoria. Or, on Capitol Hill.

AG Janet Napolitano was defending the idea as part of a “three-legged stool” in its initial rollout.

November 12, 2009

Jay Rosen's new media 10 Commandments are wrong

Starting wit his claim media atomization has been overcome. It hasn't, because of the price level of new media. To the degree it consolidates, then it will professionalize, with some of the issues of "old media."

For instance, more than three years ago, in Dallas, a group of people started a site called Pegasus News. It serves as an aggregator of bloggers (and maybe Twitterers, soon enough) on local arts, entertainment, politics, etc, while mixing in rewrites and expansions of press releases and the occasional actual story.

So, my default, if you're one the cool/lucky bloggers to have been picked up, especially early in Pegasus' history, and especially if it was without being noticed by the Dallas Morning News, you've got an inside edge.

So, in that sense, atomization may be lessened. But, Pegasis doesn't run all of the blog posts it gets from bloggers it "favorites." So, it's now ... wait for it ... a filter.

Some of the commandments are "fat chance," like this from Rosen's second commandment:
Closed systems [i.e. old media] bring editorial oversight and the authority of a respected brand while open ones crowdsource information and are easy to use. What both systems should have is trust and ethics.

But, if Rosen would have read Tech Crunch's pieceon an infamous Fort Hood-posted Army blogger, which I blogged about here, he'd be more circumspect about the likelihood of that happening soon.

Another of his commandments he just throws out without saying what will happen to it:
"Half my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which half."
Unlike the first six recent quotes, this one is almost a century old. Rosen attributes it to Philadelphia businessman John Wanamaker/

But, Rosen doesn't wonder what will happen ot the good half vs. wasted half of advertising if he's wrong, and the new media does remain atomized to some degree.

Others of the commandments aren't "wrong," they just fall into "what does this mean?" If people need better filters, since "old media" now isn't a "filtering force," or whatever, will they just give up instead? Give up filtering, or eventually tune out?

Rosen, along with Jeff Jarvis and some others (I don't think Clay Shirky is that bad) need to take to heart a previous post of mine, that "Internet triumphalism is not a public good.

It's kind of frustrating for people like this to be triumphal to the point of making overstated new media guru claims. Be more modest, realistic and fact-based about what's actually happening, or you start repeating the mistakes, and the hubris, of the old media on which you shovel dirt.

Not so fast on more A-stan troops

That’s the word from Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and also a retired three-star general. From the tone of the story, it appears he may well be behind President Obama now asking “exit strategy” questions.

It’s amzong that Bush was too dumb, arrogant, or both, to ask those questions about either Afghanistan or Iraq, long after both wars started.

That said, if Obama is serious about wanting the answers, he needs to stick by them once he makes a public decision.

A dinosaur ‘missing link’

A new South African fossil illustrates how quadriped sauropods may have evolved.

Iraq WAS about the oil

At least, for John Kenneth Galbraith’s son.

‘Internet triumphalism is not a public good’

Near the end of a long article in the New Republic, arguing why transparency in government issues can sometimes have ambiguous results or worse, Lawrence Lessig goes beyond that near the end he jumps into how the Internet has more generally been a two-edged sword:
Reformers rarely feel responsible for the bad that their fantastic new reform effects. Their focus is always on the good. The bad is someone else’s problem. … But as we see the consequences of changes that many of us view as good, we might wonder whether more good might have been done had more responsibility been in the mix. … No one can dislike Craigslist (or Craig), but we all would have benefited from a clearer recognition of what was about to be lost. Internet triumphalism is not a public good.

Something to ponder further, I hope, by the “new media right or wrong” types. But, I’m not holding my breath.

A certain segment of these folks, even if not in tones of conspiracy, talk about “old media” as “gatekeepers.” But, in light of my previous blogpost, if the flip side of “gatekeeper” is to instill a sense of professional ethos, then new media citizen journalists need some gatekeeping.

Ego, skill, taste and citizen journalism

At Tech Crunch, in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, Paul Carr totally nails a lot of things on my mind about what happens when you mix “new media” social media tools with “citizen journalism.” It ain’t pretty.

CJR has some good follow-up. But Megan Garber misses part of the point on the ethics of citizen journalists being framed by their audiences. What if the audiences of more and more “citizen journalists” wants non-detached stuff like this? What if they boost reputations of people who write like the Fort Hood Tweeter? Without necessarily having the same political angle, and while acknowledging that MSM sources did the same (that’s you, above all, Judith Miller), aren’t we opening the doors to “cheerleader journalism”?

November 11, 2009

Reid plans Senate jobs bill

While I wish the Senate would move more quickly on a climate bill, I understand indeed that something like this is both a social and a political reality and need. Let’s hope that, unlike Obama’s stimulus bill, it’s not watered down.

November 10, 2009

David Brooks, even worse than normal

Just Muslims, and only them, are ultimately to blame for Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. No mention of neocons. No mention of Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” etc.

At the local level? Nidal Hasan was a dirty, stinking, Muslim fanatic, not a person under stress who then turned to more radical thought. So, is Joe Lieberman the same for supporting Israeli war crimes — a dirty, stinking Zionist?

November 09, 2009

US in A-stan for the long term

Or, at the least it certainly looks that way, as we build as much military infrastructure as we did in Iraq.

And, a lot of it is going toward “contractors” of various sorts. It’s ridiculous.

Three dates: Berlin Wall, 9-11, Lehman collapse

Michael Lind weaves a compelling story of how they link together as three transition points of the last 20 years most worth note and why.

Did Chrysler lie to government?

With it now rejecting plans to build an electric car, one most wonder whether Chrysler really planned to do that in the first place, or just said that as part of angling for government bailout money.

US govt overstates productivity

Why? The government doesn’t even have a handle on how much imports, whether manufacturing or services, actually contribute to the economy.


So, the economy could suck even worse, and perhaps has been for some time, while the current neolib occupant of the White House is no more likely to address this at a structural level, IMO, than his predecessor.

Murdoch ready to cut Google out of the loop?

Rupert Murdoch says that, as part of putting paywalls up on News Corporation websites, the company will remove its articles from Google searches. Sounds like a smart idea.

And, he claims it’s what the Wall Street Journal already does with the part of its content that is paywalled. However, that’s not exactly true:
Users who click through to screened articles from Google searches are usually offered the full text of the story without any subscription block.

Sounds like you might want to fix that.

‘The G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit’

Krugman nails it, using last week’s tea-party rally sponsored, officially, by the GOP, as his starting point.

You thought the housing bubble was bad?

Commercial real estate prices are already further off their peak than housing values, and pwith a turnaround even further out of sight.

Unlike housing, it wasn’t overbuilding, but too much money sloshing around the system, spiking prices in commercial real estate as investment.

Full recovery could be a decade away, in part because commercial real estate deals were sliced and diced and repackaged even worse than home mortgages.

November 08, 2009

'Old media' vs. 'new media' and media vs. messages

"Old media" vs. "new media"? The difference is ultimately in the medium more than the message quality. Yes, blogs have broken news stories before the "MSM" and Twitter has added color to stories, but Twitter has releasd just as much inaccurate info as the MSM outlets at breaking news events, adn blogs can look like news but be as slanted as bad MSM coverage.

Does McChrystal not know his own Army doctrine?

In light of reports that US President Barack Obama wants to send 34,000 more troops, reportedly; that’s four-fifths of a loaf for Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, but far less than Army doctrine says will do:
The Army's counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan's population would require about 600,000 troops.

So, why is McChrystal asking for 40,000 when it’s nowhere near what’s needed?

Another Vietnam? Should we just call him “Westmoreland” now and beat the rush?

Is the U.S. becoming more like Russia?

That’s what a provocative new essay in Salon hints.

I would slightly modify that, though. I think it’s that we’re becoming more like China, instead, since there’s not a Mafioso thuggery involved in the U.S. version of crony capitalism.

The Berlin Wall fall 20 years on – regrets?

One professional class former East German probably speaks for many of her compatriots with a laundry list of regrets. Meanwhile, an American regrets how Eastern Europe of the 1990s evolved tangled state-private open-door networks similar to today’s American system that caused the financial meltdown.

Obama ready to ramp up in Afghanistan?

He wants to send 34,000 more troops, reportedly; that’s four-fifths of a loaf for Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, but far less than Army doctrine says will do:
The Army's counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan's population would require about 600,000 troops.

And, are we at risk of “going it alone”? There’s this:
n an interview last week with The New York Times, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner complained that the American administration is leaving its NATO allies in the dark about its new strategy.

"What is the goal? What is the road? And in the name of what?" Kouchner asked, according to the Times. "Where are the Americans? It begins to be a problem . . . . We need to talk to each other as allies."

The New York Times says it’s it’s the middle of three options on troop numbers.

Vietnam, anyone? One-term president, anyone?

A Dem, maybe two with guts to vote no on 'health care'?

Per Huffington Post, it’s clear Dennis Kucinich opposed what he saw as a sellout to the insurance industry. I don’t know for sure about Artur Davis, but, per this NY Times graphic, he may have had similar reasons.

Many Afghans don't want more US troops either

With sentiments like this on the rise, why would we send 40,000 more troops