SocraticGadfly: 2/7/10 - 2/14/10

February 13, 2010

Feds: We don't need a warrant to track your cell phone usage

How scary is THIS? The Obama Department of Justice looks like it could get WORSE than Bush's on some civil liberties issues, like claiming it doesn't need a search warrant to get your cell phone call records from your provider?

Here's the nut graf quote:
"An individual has no Fourth Amendment-protected privacy interest in business
records, such as cell-site usage information, that are kept, maintained and used
by a cell phone company," (Justice Department lawyer Mark) Eckenwiler wrote in his brief.

Yep, that's worse than Bush's DOJ.

The "patrician" Obama

That's the best takeaway from Charles Blow's latest column.

That said, FDR was a patrician by birth, not just style, and he actually fought for stuff against the "malefactors of great wealth."

Obama? He just takes the malefactors' campaign contributions.

Why is China passing the US in clean energy?

Given our great advantage in research science, and engineering therefrom, Bob Herbert wants to know the same thing.

February 12, 2010

Friday scatblogging: Idaho wolves take revenge on anti-wolf wingers

El Lobo is sharing a few tapeworms in that canid scat, a nice gift for the wolf-haters among Idahoans!

Smithsonian publishing = history fail

Why the Smithsonian shouldn't publish history books involving government figures, especially living ones, per my Amazon review of "American Indians/American Presidents: A History."

Texas' most nutbar state agency, the SBOE!

If you're in Texas, and not a religious fundamentalist, and you know something about the state's politics and culture, you would surely agree that the State Board of Education is its most nutbar institution.

If you're not from Texas, and you don't know that the SBOE not only directly influences Texas public school textbook choice, but indirectly influences that of most other states in the nation, you need to read this in-depth profile of the loony bin by the New York Times Magazine.
James Kracht, a professor at Texas A&M’s college of education and a longtime player in the state’s textbook process, told me flatly, “Texas governs 46 or 47 states.”

Yes, it is that powerful, and no, led by a former chairman, several board members are on a "Christian nation" kick right now.

Uhh, NO, Texas State Board of Education, the Founding Fathers were NOT Trinitarian Christians, for the most part.

That said, Russell Shorto does offer a nuanced article about the role of Christianity in American history. Is America sociologically a largely Christian nation? Certainly. But, it never was politically or legally a Christian nation, which is what the Don McLeroys of the SBOE in particular and Religious Right world in general try to claim.

At the same time, though, Shorto, even in a 10-webpage article, doesn't delve into how, on the sociological side, the Religious Right likes to conflate religious belief with morality. He also doesn't cite or interview someone like Garry Wills to refute the whole "reference by incorporation" that claims the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were on the same page. All one has to do is look at the issue of slavery, as did abolitionists, Abraham Lincoln and others (as Wills points out in his writings) to see how laughable this idea is.

So, I note this observation of his:
Ask Christian activists what they really want — what the goal is behind the effort to bring Christianity into American history — and they say they merely want “the truth.”

And, immediately think of Jack Nicholson's response to Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men."

Beyond this, Shorto's piece is a good read for pointing out the generally ill-informed background, and lack of logical reasoning skills of the McLeroy faction of the SBOE. And, not just on church-state issues.

February 11, 2010

Of hockey sticks and climate-change e-mails

First, of hockey sticks. It looks like Dr. Edward Wegman's "independent" climate report in 2006 to the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce was actually partisan-driven, with his "hockey stick" scripting actually being assisted by a GOP staffer:

And, we also know more about the corporate-sponsorship side of Wegman, too:

Second, the climate change e-mail hackers? We now have some clues.

"Forensic data analysis reveals that the hacker was in a time zone somewhere in the eastern US or Canada. Rather than a single breach of security, the hacker was also able to access confidential CRU on four different occasions over a six-week period."

So, while I stand behind an earlier comment that Russia had motive, it seems it might not be involved.

Rather, can we say, from the U.S. East Coast... Manhattan Institute, George Marshall Institute or some other denialist think tank?

Note to Faux News' latest global warming denialism

Note to Faux News and Faux News lovers who have become global warming deniers. Per Stephen Colbert, who observed on his show last night: "It is dark outside ... we can only assume the sun has been destroyed."

Folks, you can start by learning the difference between "weather" and "climate."

Second, they need to learn the difference between "local" and "global."

Fact of the matter is, with the stubborn Greenland high causing goofy East Coast and mid-South weather, much of the Arctic has had well above normal temps this winter.

David Broder reaches a new low

Can the "dean of the Washington press corps" be officially tested for Alzheimer's? Just when you think he can't get stupider, by giving Sarah Palin his official imprimatur, he does.

Sarah Palin plus David Broder, like gasoline plus matches, eh?

February 10, 2010

The beat(down) goes on for Toyota

The talk has been for months among auto analysts that Toyota grew too rapidly, diminishing quality.

How much?

It now ranks 16th in car quality among manufacturers.

And, thing may get yet worse.

Allegedly, half the sudden accelertion complaints involve models not yet recalled.

That's part of why Congress and watchdog groups want the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to do more.

And, why they want Toyota to do more.

February 09, 2010

Yet MORE Prius woes for Toyota

Reportedly, the Japanese giant has two more Prius problems: 1. Other electronic malfunctions on the new, third-generation Priuses besides the regenerative brakes, and 2. Regenerative brake problems are also on older Priuses.

The story goes on to detail just how serious the braking problem could be.

Waterboarding your OWN KID?

Today's sick news leads to my observation, as a sort of rift on Lord Acton's thoughts on absolute power's corruptions, that barbarism, even in the alleged defense of noble ideas, can corrupt pretty absolutely, too.

Update: Over at Salon, Joe Conason agrees with my take. And even goes beyond it, to look at the domestic roots of torture in the first place.

The NYT goes after IPCC, omits facts

In a story headlined "Skeptics Find Fault With U.N. Climate Panel," the New York Times goes kind of hard after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and especially its head, Rajendra K. Pachauri.

But, it cites people who are more than just skeptics, like Roger Pielke Jr.:
“When I look at Dr. Pachauri’s case I see obvious and egregious problems,” said Dr. Roger A. Pielke Jr., a political scientist and professor of environmental science at the University of Colorado.
Nowhere in the story are we told that he is a member of a Nordhaus/Schellenberger think tank he mislabels as "progressive," or that he has disputed IPCC data, not just its interpretation, or that he's written for folks like Cato and the Washington Times, or that he's appeared on Fox News and skirted the edges of global warming denialism, or that he's said there's nothing we can or should realistically do to slow down or halt global warming.

That's your MSM for you, along with cuts in science writing staff.

Could an Iranian bomb LOWER tensions?

Adam Lowther is the latest of a number of analysts to make just that claim. Read why.


Update, Jan. 2, 2020:

I don't agree with all, or even much of, Lowther's reasons for WHY Iran having a bomb might lower tensions in the Middle East. But this blog post, which started trending in early fall to become one of my 10-most read of 2019, says SOMETHING about how out of whack the Middle East is since the accession of Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

His assassination of Qassem Soleimani is only the latest installment of the out-of-whackness, from Trump putting his hands on the Saudi palantir (to presumably bless the Yemen butchery) through moving the US embassy to Jerusalem to tightening the screws on the Islamic Republic. Trump is fickle enough and petulant enough he might have done this even with Iran having The Bomb. But, almost certainly, his neocon advisors would have done their best to talk him out of it.

That said, it may not be long before they get the bomb. Enrichment will go full speed ahead from this point.

February 08, 2010

Debt — EU, US, China

First, McClatchy explains why Germany has to worry more about the debt of Greece, Portugal and Spain than it is letting on, or wants to — it's called credit default swaps on one country's lending to another.

Germany will have to backstop Greece et al in some way, shape or form.

Second, little Timmy G. says the U.S. will never lose its AAA bond rating because, in essence, it's too big to fail.

Well, the real reason is because all the bond rating agencies are in the U.S. and because the dollar is the global reserve currency.

BUT — what if Beijing wins its push for a backup reserve currency? Even more, what if China's national sovereign wealth fund starts its own ratings agency?

Wipe that smile off your face, Mr. Treasury Secretary.

February 07, 2010

First Texas, then Washington, for Tricky Ricky?

Paul Burka may well be right about Rick Perry and 2012, but the idea of the Texas Twit running for president in two years if he gets re-elected as governor is enough to make me throw up in my mouth.

That said, despite Perry previously denying any ambitions beyond Texas, Burka lays out a compelling scenario. the "talk to her own hand" new low in idiocy from Palin will eventually sour more ppl on her, as will the greediness in taking the $100K to speak in Nashville, if she even runs.

Huckabee? He'll be tarred as "soft on crime." Pawlenty won't travel that well. Other Republicans are retreds.

As long as the gay rumors of the past remain rumors, and little-known ones at taht, Perry's in the clear, quite possibly.

Is Peyton Manning overrated (repost)

After the results in the Super Bowl, especially how the Saints scored the clinching touchdown, it makes Jason Whitlock's argument that that's the case even more worth reading.