SocraticGadfly: 1/3/10 - 1/10/10

January 09, 2010

The conservative case for gay marriage

Is made quite well by Ted Olsen. Now, he just needs judges to believe him, including five people in black robes on the Supreme Court, ultimately.

The wrong message about depression

Judith Warner notes that a recent story about how anti-depressants are little better than placebos for treating mild, or even some moderate, depressions, misses so much f the story about how we badly treat depression in our country.

That said, she failed to note studies in which MRIs show that placebos and SSRIs affect different parts of the brain, and SSRIs last longer in their effects.

Are tea partiers the GOP future?

Charles Blow thinks its exactly the opposite: they're dying bloviations of the frustrated who can see the future's handwriting on the wall.

Unfortunately, he may well be right on the fiscal side.

Which means that unless enough progressives challenge Democrats, we'll see the increasing corporitization of that party.

January 08, 2010

Health care reform WILL save money

Including by at least slowing the rate of growth for businesses to insure employees.

So says a new Harvard-USC study.

Take that, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, et al.

Neolib apologetics for Clinton

At Salon, Will Marshall doesn't like that Michael Lind, earlier this week, said that Clintonism, as an economic program to lift all boats, was based on as much illusion as Obama-ism is so far. So, after a sharp elbow at Lind, he tries to defend the Slickster.

And fails.

Sure, Will, we had all these new jobs created during the Clinton administration. We also had income inequality widen during eight years of continuous economic growth. We had NAFTA. We had the WTO. We had a president who did little for organized labor.

Will Marshall = Fail.

January 07, 2010

Climate - Public Enemy No. 1?

According to Rolling Stone, the No. 1 public enemy in the U.S. of addressing climate change and global warming? It's the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

Ron Paul gets Tea Party primary opponents?

Not just one, but THREE, apparently. (I don't know if all are tea-party affiliated/leaning, I will admit.)

That's ... wait for it ... crazy.

Vail Resorts snow job gets reporter fired

Bob Berwyn was, until recently, a reporter for Colorado-based Summit Daily News. Seeing a former colleague, now working for Vail Resorts, by far the biggest ski company in Colorado, doing an interview with The Weather Channel, he suspected a snow job on snowfall on the Western Slope vs. the east side of the Rockies.

And did a column about it.

Despite the fact there's now a ski report iPhone app to keep folks like Vail Resorts in line and honest, Vail Resorts yanked all its ads from the paper. Summit Daily News' managing editor insisted Berwyn needed to grovel and when he wouldn't, he fired him.

A "Google tax"? Sounds promising

Unfortunately, right now, it's just under consideration in France, not the U.S.

President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to tax Google to pay for the preservation and continuance of various "creative" services in France.

Move money, punish big banks?

Sounds so simple, right?

Well, beyond the inertia factor, Big Money points out that even if hundreds of thousands of us abandoned WellsFargo, et al, we just don't have that much leverage.

Now, if you can talk your neighborhood small business to moving out of WellsFargo or Chase, and to a credit union, that might create more leverage. But, the article notes small banks depend on big banks in various ways.

Geithner told AIG to break the law

Well, technically, it was the collective voice of the New York Federal Reserve, which our current Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, headed at the time, which told insurer AIG not to reveal details of its federal bailout in 2008.

The biggest detail the NY Fed wanted kept under wraps is that AIG's default swaps partners, like Goldman Sachs, were paid 100 cents on the dollar.

You know, if Geithner had any honor, he would resign immediately.

If someone like Dennis Kucinich had the chutzpah, as in the last days of the Bush Administration, he would start impeachment proceedings if Geithner doesn't resign.

Driving while web surfing?

If this isn't driving while texting, on steroids, I don't know what is. And yes, it's shamefully irresponsible for companies like Ford and Audi to even consider introducing such hardware.

That said, in the EU, with its greater emphasis on communal responsibility and such, I'll bet Ford and Audi don't even consider doing this.

A big reason for GOP Senate gridlock

Blame the 1980 elections.

January 06, 2010

MLB HOF gets it wrong, again

I'm still not sold on Andre Dawson, this year's lone entrant into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.

First, Roberto Alomar should have been a first-year entrant. Second, Bert Blyleven shouldn't still be getting stiffed.

Oh, well, at least Ron Santo still isn't in.

Special diets don't help autism

Nor do autistic children have greater-than-average dietary problems.

This news won't stop the Jenny McCarthys of the world from peddling nonsense, but maybe some other people will listen.

CIA lends hand on climate science

Maybe the fact that the spook shack is getting involved (again) with this, will shut up at least a few wingers who deny global warming.

How serious was Detroit 12/25? How bad U.S. or Dutch intell?

And, what can we learn from it?

Salon's "Ask the Pilot" columnist, Patrick Smith, says Lesson No. 1 is ignore the tricks of the moment, and focus on bombs, as the Transportation Security Administration's top priority.

Lesson No. 2 is for intelligence agencies to get smarter, better and more cooperative.

That leads to Talking Points Memo, where, in response to a Josh Marshall post, a reader has three VERY pertinent observations about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:
1. One-way ticket from Yemen to Detroit
2. Ticket paid for with $3,000 cash
3. Passenger has no luggage

EACH ONE OF of those is supposed to be a red flag, of varying degrees of seriousness. All three should be an alarm ringing in the night, whether in the U.s. or the Netherlands.

Progressives lack progressivism

Harold Meyerson has a great column about how today's progressives, as compared to the New Deal or Great Society eras, largely lack a movement:
If there's a common feature to the political landscapes in which Carter, Clinton and now Obama were compelled to work, it's the absence of a vibrant left movement. ... In America, major liberal reforms require not just liberal governments, but autonomous, vibrant mass movements, usually led by activists who stand at or beyond liberalism's left fringe.

But, Meyerson doesn't just point the finger at progressives. He points at The One, too:
(Obama) has consistently declined to activate his activists to help him win legislative battles by pressuring, for instance, those Democratic members of Congress who have weakened or blocked his major bills. To be sure, loosing the activists would have brought problems of its own: Unlike Roosevelt or Johnson, who benefited from autonomous movements, Obama would be answerable for every loopy tactic his followers employed. But in the absence of both a free-standing movement and a legion of loyalists, Congress isn't feeling much pressure from the left to move Obama's agenda.

I think Meyerson misses a bit of a point, though. FDR halfway co-opted some of the farther left. Call it triangulation, but in another direction from Bill Clinton.

Apparently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would like to see more from Obama, too.

Why Democrats remain Democrats, 2010 version

What I mean in the headline is that Democrats look doomed to remain the "herding cats" political party. Despite a lot of talk from some progressive organizations, few House or Senate Dems, so far, face serious primary challenges.

Getting back to the linked story above.

Progressive Democrats are part of the "herding cats" problem. Threats don't work unless you follow through by voting Green, voting Socialist, or not voting.

Harold Meyerson, in a similar vein, has a great column saying that progressives don't have "progressivism" -- there's no movement today. At least inside the cat-herders, he's right.

January 05, 2010

A swing state swing this fall?

Although Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele doesn't believe the GOP will take over the House, it looks like that could, nonetheless, still be a possibility.

Why? An anti-incumbent mood, perhaps, especially if the economy doesn't show more signs of life soon. Anger over national health care, maybe. Ongoing, and expanding, wars.

Of course, what this all boils down to, Bob Herbert notes, is that promised "change" is not being delivered. That's you, Obama.

Oh, but with the number of House Republicans retiring, maybe they have no more confidence than Steele.

January 04, 2010

Whole Foods, whole baloney CEO

While Whole Foods Market has, indeed, brought welcome changes to American grocery shopping, it's been as much in spite of, rather than due to, its sometimes-loopy CEO, John Mackey, as extensively profiled by the New Yorker.

His latest foot in mouth? Claiming that anthropogenic global warming isn't real, highlighted in this quote:
“Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.”

Yep, that would explain the palm trees in Sweden and Switzerland.

Anyway, read the whole story.

Getcha popcorn ... follow your US wars!

Will Obama withdraw that many troops from Iraq this year? Probably not. Will he put some in Yemen? Maybe. Will he shoot even more Predators at Pakistan? Most certainly.

That and other stuff is all part of Tom Englehardt's Top 10 U.S. 2010 war predictions.

Neoliberalism smacked down but good

In one of his best columns, Michael Lind says Clintonite neolibs were wrong back then, just as Obamiacs are today, about why the economy did well in the 1990s, and what we need to do to maintain that today.

Sadly, Lind is also spot-on in saying that neolibs' corporate backers don't want to do re-empower unions or do other things that might actually address income inequality. For example, what is the last time you have heard about even a watered-down version of the Employee Free Choice Act?

Religious Right rejects ties to Uganda anti-gay anger

Of course, claims of harshly anti-gay Christians, including the three gay "converters" who went to Uganda, ring false. When you peddle slanders like the ones about gays sodomizing teens, of course you're going to stoke the flames of anger, even to the point of Uganda pushing the death penalty for gays.
The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.

If there were a hell, these three would have special spots.

What's wrong with substitute teaching?

A fair amount, including a fair amount that individual teachers, not just principles, school districts, or state boards of education could do better, more thoroughly, or differently, according to this substitute teacher.

Basically, it sounds like, short of a 200-day school year, this is one of the biggest things wrong with the American educational system. (The author notes that in Britain, for example, the "first line of defense" in a teacher absence is other teachers picking up what they can. She also notes that British teachers have one-third fewer absences.)

Read all about it.

Basically, a story or column like this reinforces my impression that America wants to do public education on the cheap, while undeservedly resting on its laurels. The home of free public education, like the home of liberty, has few laurels to rest on today, though. That includes the too-short school year, the lack of money for K-12 education (the only reason we're No. 1 overall in the world on educational spending is our college output, which demonstrates money does matter) and more. Hell, for that matter, the money spent on high school athletics and coaching salaries shows that gung-ho conservatives know that money matters in education.

Behind this, and the belief that America is still the home of freedom, the arsenal of democracy or what-not, when there are things we could learn from Canada, or countries of western Europe, ultimately lies that old bugaboo:

American exceptionalism.

Shouldn't airports have more surveillance videos?

Sunday's incident at Newark, of a man entering a "secure" area (you have to put the phrase in scare quotes) is far from isolated.

So, too, is the man not being identified, let alone apprehended.

Which leads to the header for this post.

Shouldn't airports have more surveillance videos? This is a no-brainer, isn't it?

January 03, 2010

How's that 'prosperity gospel' working?

Not so well at all, at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.

A little schadenfreude for Bro. Rick. If not praying harder and believing harder, maybe he needs to preach harder?

Update: Well, Bro. Warren DID "preach harder" and drew in nearly $2.5 million. But, let's see where he's at six months from now. Or 11, at the end of this year.

Slipping past airport security - moi!

I know a quarter doesn't have too much metal, BUT...

Shouldn't the TSA folks at Albuquerque Sunport, and their metal/etc. detectors, caught the one I forgot to take out of my pocket when I flew back out of there New Year's Day?