SocraticGadfly: 11/29/09 - 12/6/09

December 05, 2009

Dead salmon, live MRI

A salmon showed human-type emotional responses to stimuli, when its brain was subject to functional magnetic resonance image scanning.

Just one problem: the salmon was dead.

Top war historian skeptical of Obama surge

Add the name of Max Hastings to those skeptical of Obama accomplishing much in Afghanistan. Unlike most NYT columnists, Hastings knows how to write a hard-hitting column with a lede and nut graf up front. His second sentence says enough:
The additional forces sound large in headlines, but shrink small in the mountains.

Hastings rejects most Afghanistan-Vietnam parallels, but not all. He says one is especially pertinent:
One Indochina parallel seems valid: that war was lost chiefly because America’s Vietnamese allies were unviable.

Finally, Hastings wonders just how much of a coherent political strategy for Afghanistan Obama has. Read the full column.

December 04, 2009

Sarah Palin lies about Trig again

If ever someone of the female sex epitomized the idea that if you're going to lie, tell Hitlerian whoppers, it's her.

In her recent interview, she lyingly, no other word for it, once again claimed to have shown the public Trig Palin's birth certificate. Now, it doesn't seem that either of her older two daughters could really be the mom, so what's she hiding? Is former First Dude Todd not the husband? That, since Bristol's pregnancy ruled out her parenthood, has always been the "secret" that I have assumed Sarah is hiding.

Andrew Sullivan has more; why won't others pick up on this?

Click the labels below for more of my own previous coverage of this.

Attack Pakistan?

Obama promises a surge in Afghanistan and at least one member of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment says, let's have a real war instead.

Especially since Pakistan is already leery of any smaller-level war expansion by Obama, Jones' idea above is just nuts.

Friday scatblogging - mammoths and Indians

The common version of American Indians taking over the New World is that they hunted the wooly mammoths and other creatures to extinction.

Well, mammoth scat says, in their case at least, it ain't quite so.

Friday scatblogging with our evolutionary cousins

It ain't just dogs that do it, chimps and bonobos do, too.

It? Coprophagy, or poop-eating.

Read why, right here.

December 03, 2009

Obama job summit - more for show?

It seems like he, and his administration, such as Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, offered little of substance themselves. He is just not getting it, perhaps? Could this, we hope, kill neoliberalism?

Beyond that, things like green jobs are good and fine, but not many will materialize in the next year or two. Let's start repairing more roads, bridges, utility lines, etc. Now.

Schmidt: Google will save newspapers; right

The Google CEO
conveniently overlooks a few things, though. Like the idea that most of his proposed “helps” would help Google first; that most new ads he’d like to generate would be Google ads, not newspaper ads, etc.

Nice try from the emperor of the New Microsoft.

Hansen: Junk Copenhagen

NASA’s former top climate scientist says anything likely to come out of the Copenhagen climate summit
could be worse rather than better than where we’re at now.
"I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it's a disaster track," said Hansen, who heads the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

"The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then [people] will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means."

He goes on to criticize Barack Obama and even Al Gore.

Tricky Ricky Perry vs the legacy of W

Robert Draper, in the NYT, has an excellent in-depth take on the politics of personality in the Texas GOP gubernatorial showdown. Kay Bailey Hutchison, then, is seen by many former Bushies as upholding his legacy, which Perry is nipping at.

Is Goldman Sachs right on long-term unemployment?

Via Reuters, we read Goldman Sachs’ Jan Hatzius, a touted tout, is forecasting unemployment to
stay above 10 percent through most of 2011. Holy shit.

Per Salon’s Andrew Leonard, if this turns out true, we could well see a GOP Congress from the midterm elections, which would, if anything, probably be even more disastrous for the economy.

Meanwhile, Robert Reich admits many “old jobs” have gone away forever, their demise accelerated by the recession. But, he insists a real jobs summit can and should address that.

Wonder if the Goldman Boys inside Team Obama are paying attention to Hatzius?

December 02, 2009

Go, Bernie Sanders, go!

The Vermont senator has put a hold on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Ben Bernanke to another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

I love this line from the story, which says Big Ben will surely got an eventual confirmation:
Mainstream senators give credit to Bernanke for pulling the economy out of the deepest ditch since the Great Depression.

First, there’s the implication Sanders is not “mainstream.”

Second, there’s the convenient overlooking of Big Ben partially driving the economy into that ditch in the first place.

Gloria Allred finds her Peter Principle calling

Tiger Woods’ alleged Mistress No. 1 Rachel Uchitel is ready to fess up to also boinking Woods. And, is Gloria Allred now the self-appointed guardian angel lawyer of self-wronging other women? She’s representing both Uchitel and Jaimee Grubbs, Woods’ alleged Mistress No. 2.

Go, Gloria, go. These women, who made their own free-will choices to chase T. Woods, need legal representation for what? Book deals? Public relations portrayals as downtrodden post-feminist women? Book deals for you?

Oh, and with Uchitel reportedly offered $1 mil by Tiger, we know why Allred signed on. Such principles!

Hey Tiger, if you value your privacy?

You wouldn’t have been chasing after
what sounds like a growing laundry list of young women in the first place. Including while your wife was pregnant, which you surely knew would add to the salaciousness factor when it became public, if it did — as it now has done.

Meanwhile, Elle Nordlingen Woods’ former boss, Jesper Parnevik, is ripping into Tiger. What next, Fuzzy Zoeller offering Tiger a condom to go with his fried chicken?

And, more fun. After previous denials, Rachel Uchitel is ready to fess up to also boinking Woods. And, is Gloria Allred now the self-appointed guardian angel lawyer of self-wronging other women? She’s representing both Uchitel and Jaimee Grubbs.

New Skeptics Circle

Is now up at Tech Skeptic.

Tiger apologizes for ‘transgressions’

And, for hurting his family, etc.,
all indications that he did, apparently, have his pants down with someone not his wife.

Except, that person may not be the daytime-appearances hostess in New York, Rachel Uchitel, but instead, Jaimee Grubbs, an L.A. cocktail waitress. But Grubbs may not be the only one; the New York Post said a woman named Kalika Moquin had also come forward.

At Yahoo, Dan Wetzel likes the apology, but, rips Tiger a new one for bashing the celebrity culture from which he has profited. And, manipulated — Wetzel notes that Team Tiger got National Enquirer to kill a 2007 story. So, like Clinton, or Michael Jordan, even after time to straighten up, he didn’t.

Bring on Family Man Philly Mick!

Pardon John Brown?

Tony Horwitz, the award-winning author of “Confederates in the Attic,” notes that Brown, hanged 150 years ago today, was
the most successful terrorist in American history.” No, he didn’t kill 3,000 people, as al-Qaeda did, or even Timothy McVeigh’s 168. But, he lit one of the matches that started the Civil War.

That’s why it’s interesting that history professor David Reynolds calls for Brown to get a presidential pardon. Uhh, not a chance of that happening politically, sir.

Obama’s Afghanistan speech wrap-up – ehhhh

Juan Cole
makes a good case President Obama is misreading any analogies with Iraq and the surge there, and that most such analogies only exist in the minds of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment anyway.

Dan Froomkin has much more on this, including, in essence, a flip-flip mentality by Obama. Or, self-petard-hoisting, perhaps we should say.

Zbigniew Brzezinski has some concerns, too.

Glenn Greenwald gives Obama one kudo for not touting nation building. That said, here’s part of his nut graf:
Independent of motive, it is also quite unlikely that helping Afghans will be the unintended result of our ongoing war there. Just as was true in Iraq -- where we bribed and befriended religious extremists and others we spent years demonizing as "Terrorists," and now protect a government that is extremely oppressive to women, Christians and gays, and brutally violative of human rights in general -- we will do whatever benefits us and serves our interests in Afghanistan, even if that means empowering brutal, oppressive and misogynistic fanatics as long as they are willing to carry out our geopolitical directives.

So, if that’s the case, the Taliban is not likely to be able to control the whole country in the foreseeable future, and the remnants of al Qaeda (and the Taliban and allied agents, for that matter) are more a problem for Pakistan, why stay involved?

A gesture worth 1,000 words of language evolution

Chimpanzee gestural control is left-brain-centric, shedding new light on the evolution of human language, since it is also largely localized in the left hemisphere.
“The de­gree of predom­i­nance of the right hand for ges­tures is one of the most pro­nounced we have ev­er found in chim­panzees in com­par­i­son to oth­er non-com­mu­nica­tive man­u­al ac­tions. We al­ready found such man­u­al bi­ases in this spe­cies for point­ing ges­tures ex­clu­sively di­rect­ed to hu­mans. These ad­di­tion­al da­ta clearly showed that right-hand­edness for ges­tures is not spe­cif­ic­ally as­so­ci­at­ed to interac­tions with hu­mans,” William D. Hop­kins said.

Read the full story for more information.

Nuclear power and the muth of 'energy independence'

Nuclear power plants will NOT give the US taht mythical "energy independence," mainly because the US already imports 83 percent of its uranium needs -- a far higher percentage than our 60 percent of oil that is imported.

True, 30 years ago, most our uranium was domestic, but after Three Mile Island tthen Chernobyl, nobody was building new plants, so US uranium mining imploded. (A lesser black eye, from which I have personal familiarity, was a leak from a tailings pond at a mine 20 miles east of where I grew up -- and in 1979, the year of Three Mile Island, no less.)

That said, as far as mythical energy independence?

Far beyond the 60 percent of oil needs we import, we also import:

1. 100 percent of bauxite/alumina;
2.100 percent of manganese;
3. 100 percent of rare earth metals;
4. 91 percent of platinum;
5. 88 percent of tin;
6. 85 percent of tantalum;
7. 76 percent of cobalt;
8. 72 percent of chromium;
9. 70 percent of magnesium;
>> 60 percent of oil;
10. 56 percent of silicon;
11. 54 percent of silver.

So, let's just knock off the "energy independence" bull.

December 01, 2009

Well, Holliday will spend at least one more year in St. Louis

The Cards' left fielder was offered arbitration today, as was Mark DeRosa.

And, I doubt seriously this is a ploy. That said, I'm sure the team still wants a longer-term deal, if the price is right. At the same time, if Boras tries to go hardball, that playoff glove may get mentioned in negotiations.

Fritz Henderson leaving GM? Or pushed?

Given the hastiness of Fritz Henderson stepping down as General Motors CEO, combined with lack of official comment by either him or GM, and I have to believe he was pushed out.

But why? Saab deal falling through? Putting GM’s paws back on Opel? Seen as too much a corporate holdover? Something else?

Obama promises 1-year ‘wonder surge’ in A-stan

I have the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge if you believe this bullshit. Technically, the surge would be 18 months from when it starts, a year and a half, but do you really believe that? The surge in Iraq, which involved fewer troops – much fewer relative to the number of soldiers already there – lasted longer. Realistically, though, with the surge peaking in May 2010 and allegedly starting to wind down in July 2011, it wouldn’t be much more than a year.

That said, at least Obama is smart enough to bypass Afghan president Hamid Karzai and and send most additional U.S. aid directly to local-level leaders.

(Oh, and NYT, does it take seven reporters for a 700-word story?)

Meanwhile, reading between some lines written by Bob Herbert, can one argue that he thinks Obama, like multiple presidential predecessors, is being, or will be, less than fully honest about the war now his?

Scratch the Antarctic ‘protection’ treaty?

Well, if it’s
this compromised, even more than whaling treaties, maybe we should junk it.

Oh, Canada, Copenhagen’s eyes are on thee…

Because, even more than the U.S. or China,
you are a climate treaty wrecker.

Whither a jobs bill or summit?

Michael Lind has some good ideas for what President Barack Obama and Congress not only need to do for the short term, but the longer term as well.

George Barack Obama on Afghanistan and Iraq

Glenn Greenwald has a great side-by-side comparison of Barack Obama’s statements about his proposed Afghanistan surge and George W. Bush’s about his Iraq surge.

Meanwhile, Malalai Joya, an Afghan woman who should have gotten Obama’s Noble Peace Prize, is the latest to argue a surge will only exacerbate corruption within Hamid Karzai’s government and blowback by the Taliban.

And, from here in America, Juan Cole sees ethnic, tribal and corruption battles between Karzai and the Afghan parliament.

None of which George Barack Obama will tell the American public tonight.

Tiger vs Phil will have whole new angle in 2010

With the rumors that Tigers Woods was cheating on his wife,now followed by him entirely ducking the tournament, as host, not just as player, and, rumors that he could be subject to a police search warrant, the Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson story lines for 2010 will take a whole new angle.

Philly Mick will still refuse to put in the gym work that Tiger does. He'll never, unlike Vijay Singh, topple Tiger from No. 1 on the world rankings.

But, No. 1 on the fan list? Quite possible. With him taking a sabbatical last year to support his wife's battle against breast cancer, Mickelson has a distinct lead over Tiger on "Mr. Family Man" honors.

Get to a place like Augusta National Country Club in April, you may well see, and hear, a change of momentum in the galleries.

November 30, 2009

The ‘brilliance’ of Foreign Policy mag

If, in a survey of its “FP 100,” allegedly today’s version of “the best and brightest”, 20 percent can call “the economy” the top underreported story of the year, why the hell should we trust people like this on situations like Afghanistan?

The worst recession in at least nearly 30 years, if not since the Great Depression, a recession that, perhaps with too much euphemism, got the media moniker “The Great Recession,” is underreported?

The rosy Democratic future?

Ross Douthat says it’s very possible — if Democrats improve how they handle the recession.

That said, per his note about Gen X has a strong GOP contingent, and per real liberals’ note about how Obama and many Congressional Democrats are a bigger sellout to Wall Street than Clinton was, even if Dems do “manage” the recession halfway well, the question is what type of Democrats will today’s youth be loyal to, and what type of Democrats will they be?

The routinization of Obama

A great outtake from the last page of a new New York Magazine profile of President Barack Obama and where and how “the politics of hope” has run aground:
Obama has done his share to contribute to what Max Weber might have called the routinization of his own charisma. For much of the past ten months, the outside-shot candidate has been the inside-game president, consumed with dickering with Congress and deliberating with his team, spending more time appealing to various Beltway constituencies than to us. His oft-noted omnipresence in the media has done little to connect him more viscerally to the electorate. Astonishingly, this inspiring, eloquent, and persuasive man has often seemed an arid and distant figure.

That said, maybe that “side” of Obama is just as real as the inspiring/eloquent/persuasive side is.

In either case, the story is right, at the end. Ultimately, clarity is needed from Obama. Of the several things that sank Jimmy Carter, lack of clarity at times might have been one of them.

The seven new story lines of Obama

Yes, that title is a deliberate bit of “seven last words” wordplay on Obama as Messiah. But, the seven story lines Obama probably doesn’t want to gain traction are all straight from Politico. And, they all have at least a grain of truth, if not more — some more than others.

And, the deal is, many of them have gained traction from ineptitude of either White House Staff, The One himself, or both.

That’s all the more surprising because, as New York Magazine notes, even within the realm of the modern presidency, no president has been more dedicated to image management than Obama.

Screw you, Evan Bayh

The blue dog Democrat, self-billed as both “war hawk” and “deficit hawk,” throws principles out the door on paying for the Afghan war upgrade, or even its current level, in full.

Another reason Russia doesn’t trust us

We kind of mislead Gorbachev over whether or not we would expand NATO. And, Gorby didn’t get anything in writing from us.

Tiger Woods now an ostrich?

His injuries might or might not prevent him from playing at the Chevron Challenge, but he could still appear as the tournament’s host, in a non-playing role. Entirely ducking the tournament, on the other hand, is questionable.

Maybe he has to stay home to let police serve him a warrant in person. Oops!

TMZ says cops could look for evidence of either domestic violence or DUI, with the pain meds he was on. Of course, cops probably took no blood samples. At the same time, the police there only ruled out DWI, alcohol-specific, IIRC.