SocraticGadfly: 12/6/09 - 12/13/09

December 12, 2009

Astroturfing another reason to be skeptical of social media as journalism

The example Josh Marshall cites is pretty clumsy, but this was just an early attempt. What happens when astroturfers get more careful about their fingerprints?

ACORN wins one

A federal judge has ruled that recent Congressional action specifically targeting ACORN is, as any constitutional lawyer with brains could tell, a bill of attainder and therefore not just illegal but unconstitutional. Glenn Greenwald has details.

Oh, as Glenn points out, the House GOP is Constitutionally idiotic and scary. But, nearly three-quarters of House Democrats on this issue were Constitutionally chicken-shit and therefore equally scary.

The "lost" generation after the boomers

And, no, I'm not talking about Hemingway pickling his liver in Paris while Stein wondered about Oakland.

I'm talking about those of us born in the first half of the 1960s, who really aren't part of the Baby Boomer generation, though some demographers claim we are. And, we're not really Gen X, either. We don't have the same tech orientation, and we're old enough to, theoretically, have been in the state of abstract reasoning before Uncle Ronnie brought Bedtime for Bonzo to the White House and soporifically lured lots of kids, like Alex Keaton of TV fame, into becoming Young Republicans.

Over at Salon, though, Alexander Leonard gets it, and gets how boomers have distorted our economy. Even if a lot of boomers don't like him, or think he hates them. And, he notes people like him and I aren't Gen Xers, either.

December 11, 2009

A team of Rubenites

No "team of rivals" advising President Barack Obama on financial matters, Matt Taibbi notes. Rather, it's a team of Rubinites, all orbiting the star of Robert Rubin, Clinton's bastard Secretary of the Treasury.

And, yet, Obamiacs will still worship him and kiss his a**.

Tea partiers hate Obama for the wrong reason

In the last page of his ripping Obama up and down for selling out to Wall Street, Matt Taibbi notes that many tea-baggers are either clueless, or simply don't care about, the sellout on financial regulation issues happening right now, far bigger than the Big Pharma payout for "socialized" medicine (which it isn't).
She doesn't give a fuck. People like Pat aren't aware of it, but they're the best friends Obama has. They hate him, sure, but they don't hate him for any reasons that make sense. These are the kinds of voters whom Obama's gang of Wall Street advisers is counting on: idiots. People whose votes depend not on whether the party in power delivers them jobs or protects them from economic villains, but on what cultural markers the candidate flashes on TV.

Well, Matt, he also depends on Democrats deluded by the politics of personality.

December 10, 2009

Greedy Goldman gets conscience?

Top brass at Goldman Sachs will get no bonuses this year.

Anti-depressants better than CBT on personality

I'm not a fan or touter of Big Pharma, nor do I denigrate talk therapy.

But, it seems that SSRI antidepressants are better than cognitive therapy in lowering neuroticism and raising extraversion in depressed people. CBT helps make changes there, too, but the changes are neither as profound nor as lasting as with medication.

Obama touts 'just war'

In accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, U.S. President Barack Obama touted the idea of Afghanistan as a just war. But, any person who has started a war and based that action, in part, on moral grounds, could make the same claim.

Osama bin Laden on 9/11? Well, he did. The Crusaders? They did. And many people in between. It's a slippery slope, Mr. President. And, given that justice isn't absolute when administered by finite people, and has trade-offs (is it just to burden your own nation with more debt? with fewer civil liberties?) the idea of a "just war" is philosophically unviable in other ways.

Wonder what the Peace Prize committee thinks?

The hymen gets renamed

And not by either Muslim fanatics or "Vagina Monologues" followers. Rather, thank some Swedes for "vaginal corona."

That said "vaginal corona" to me sounds like something involving U.S. college students, spring break, the beach at Cancun and a certain Mexican beverage brand.

Can't trust China and India on climate change

The so-called "Danish draft" of a new climate agreement that would push less developed countries to do more on greenhouse gas control?

Turns out India and China had a hand in drafting it. The story doesn't say if the two nations were acting as agents provacateur or what, but that would be my first guess, or at least a partial guess, not just that it was an attempt to put legs onto some sort of agreement.

That said, we need a a three-track, not two-track, agreement. China, India and other BRIC-type nations need to be on a "middle" track, one that has binding, if not immediate, targets. China is NOT Mozambique.

December 09, 2009

Blair worse than Bush-Cheney on Iraq WMD claims

We "just" believed a mentally ill physicist.

The British apparently actually believed an Iraqi taxi driver, among others, about WMD.


If that was not bad enough, at other times, Prime Minister Tony Blair was just making up Dick Cheney-type bullshit about Iraq.

Boo-hooing Obamiacs can't stand the heat

Yes, they, no less than Bushheads who saw him as "anointed," like Pat Robertson did, or Palinistas who love the hockey mom, have fallen in love with the politics of personality, albeit with a more "wonkish" veneer than either Bush or Palin had/has.

But, live by the politics of personality, die by it. And Glenn Greenwald says you are just like Bushheads and Palinistas.

Just another reason I saw through the "Politics of Personality" two full years ago and change. And knew then that I would be voting Green again.

Love you that frozen fish

Especially if it's flash-frozen, rather than "fresh," salmon. Love you that frozen fish, and save us all some carbon dioxide emissions.

The hypocrisy of Paul O'Neill

The former BushCo treasury secretary, without any hint of remorse for his part in the financial meltdown, his silence about the debt and deficit bombs Bush rang up, etc., has the audacity, yes, pun intended, to suggest a jobs program to President Obama.

That said, the jobs program he suggests is actually not half bad.

December 08, 2009

Obama small biz recovery plan sounds good

Focusing on small business and real infrastructure development should have been the idea nine months ago, with the "stimulus" bill. But, late is definitely better than never in this case, so here's hoping Obama follows through on his new recovery plan.

He will have to fight Republicans who claim you can't use TARP money for this; he will have to battle a filibuster in the Senate if legislation is needed. He'll have to battle the eventual desire of his own party to "pork it up."

But, maybe he will pull it off.

That dammed weather

Large dam-impounded lakes may be changing rainfall patterns in areas where they are common. OTOH, this doesn't appear to be enough to address the overall drier weather in the U.S. desert Southwest.

Obama boo-hoos that Conyers is dissing him

Looks like President Barack Obama is kind of thin-skinned when it comes to criticism from his left, at least inside Washington. As his reaction to John Conyers shows, his claims he wants to be pushed from the left is apparently just another whopper he told a while back, nothing more.

December 07, 2009

MUCH more on the dark side of the Internet

So, while the Internet may not be an unallayed force for good, in things like citizen journalism, consumer empowerment against big business, etc., it's a human, "allayed," but still powerful force for good, right?

Uhh, quite possibly not.

Big Biz? It's behind the growth of SEOs, Google-scrubbing companies, etc.
Corporations themselves have not been slow to exploit cyberspace for their own purposes, with many of them relying on “search engine optimization” (SEO)—a set of online techniques to boost their Google ranking--to make themselves easier to find.

Now, they have stepped up their efforts, hiring the services of dedicated SEO firms that can ensure that any online complaints about corporate misbehavior posted by the likes of The Consumerist will be almost impossible to find on Google., the most visible of such companies, advertises “Do you need negative information removed? We are masters at knocking bad links off the front pages of search engines!” boasts its front page. In some sense, cyberspace has made life relatively easy for companies: they don’t need to beat up journalists anymore; they just need to beat up Google. The latter can be done quietly, privately, and at little expense--to their finances or their reputations.

And, now that Big Biz does take this seriously, it's got a lot more money and "weight" than citizen journalists.

Pseudoscience is rampant online in the "educated" West; nationalism abounds elsewhere. Add in the amount of rumor-monging in legitimate protests against authorities and authoritarianism, and the Net has plenty of "issues" and "baggage." Can it overcome that?

MLB HOF Veterans Committee gets it half right

As a Cardinals fan, I'm glad to see the White Rat finally made it. And, Doug Harvey should be in, too, IMO. But, still no Marvin Miller?

The coming Copenhagen disaster?

Bill McKibben says we can’t treat climate change like health care or other “political” issues, but
that’s just what we’re doing and why Copenhagen will fail the planet.

It’s why James Hansen is also highly skeptical of Copenhagen.

And, speaking of “skeptics,” here’s how to refute global warming denialists

Hansen vs. Krugman battle on carbon cap-and-trade

Paul Krugman says
he may be naive on the success possibilities of carbon dioxide cap-and-trade deals coming out of the Copenhagen climate summit or elsewhere. I’d agree.

So does James Hansen

NASA planetary and climate scientist has a headline of “Cap and Fade” on his column. He didn’t write the column himself, but it sums it up well.

Unlike cap-and-trade boosters, and even some opponents, he rejects the analogy of its predecessor, pollution trading permits. He claims they haven’t worked as well as claimed, either.
Cap and trade also did little to improve public health. Coal emissions are still significant contributing factors in four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States — and mercury, arsenic and various coal pollutants also cause birth defects, asthma and other ailments.

That puts it pretty basically.

Hansen strongly favors a carbon tax instead. So does Joe Stiglitz, who arguably trumps even Krugman in economic insight.

Krugman now responds that Hansen doesn't understand the economics of cap-and-trade.

True as that may be, it only makes clear that Krugman doesn't fully grasp the science involved. Nor, on the economics side, does he apparently get, as some of his commenters DO get, that cap-and-trade is easily gamed.

Too bad Hansen can't blog back at Krugman at the NYT site.

December 06, 2009

Frank Rich on Obama's A-stan wrongness

Frank Rich can be somewhat hit-or-miss with me, overall, as a columnist. But, occasionally, he really hits the nail on the head, as in dissecting just how wrong President Obama is on his Afghanistan surge decision.

Rich notes one Vietnam-Afghanistan anti-parallel that hasn't gotten much discussion recently — the draft of 40 years ago vs. a "professional" armed forces today. Even with the use of "contractors," there is no way we could scale up to an Afghanistan-sized war without massive new "inducements" to recruiting. Even in a recession. And so, like Bush before, especially if Obama bluntly rejects the Obey-Levin call for a surtax to pay for his surge, America won't get asked to sacrifice.

Indicating that this isn't such a "necessary" war after all, except, perhaps, to "look strong" at home as well as abroad.