SocraticGadfly: 2/14/10 - 2/21/10

February 20, 2010

Cultural neuroscience - the new frontier

When the addition is still in basic arithmetic, Chinese speakers use a different part of their brain than do Westerners.

Things like this are part of the purview of cultural neuroscience.

February 19, 2010

A sad irony to Joe Stack and his plane crash

It appeared that the IRS line Joe Stack was ranting about, if I understood it, was a provision that allowed companies for whom he worked to treat him a self-employed contractor.

In today's New York Times?

A story about the government cracking down on that practice.

Pain-free livestock? Would you eat the meat?

If scientists could find a way to produce, say, veal that didn't feel the pain, especially the subjective sense of pain, of being confined in veal pens, and you don't eat at least some types of meat over the suffering issue, would you eat this? Especially since making such pain-free livestock may be possible?

Obama was a CIA mole

"Birther" nuttery gets worse all the time!

February 18, 2010

Nullification — and other — nutbarrery rising again

That's just one of the fruits (rotten apples) of Tea Partiers infiltrating the Conservative Political Action Conference, Gail Collins tells us.
It’s civil war déjà vu. The trick in conservative circles today is to see how furious you can get about Washington’s encroachment onto states rights without quite falling over the edge into Fort Sumter.

That said, there's no Bill Buckley to swat down these-neo John Birchers and keep them, per Collins' header, from taking the conservative movement back to 1854. Indeed, the majority of the staff at the magazine Buckley founded embrace the majority of Tea Partiers' nuttery.

Far more scary, beyond this, is Tea Partiers' connection to more nefarious segments beyond the "normal conservative" pale, including actual John Birchers, the militia movement, and more.

Reap the whirlwind, coming just around the corner, for the Republican Party, as well as for more traditional conservative magazines such as Buckley's National Review, for encouraging such folks.

Look here, at Texas. If Debra Medina can force the GOP gubernatorial primary into a runoff, will she demand pledges or promises from Rick Perry before offering her support? Or will she not offer it at all? Will she even run as an independent in the general election? (One could only hope, with that guaranteeing a Bill White win.

Beyond that, though, we have even worse. Whether Medina is a full-blown 9/11 Truther or just playing at the margins, she exemplifies the ready willingness of Tea Partiers to accept any sort of conspiracy thinking, like the idea that the feds are gathering all our medical records.

That said, the nuttery doesn't stop there. Because, it's state capitals, not just Washington, D.C., that are suspect to some Tea Partiers, like Richard Mack, big into Posse Comitatus-type movements who find the locus of power in the county sheriff.

With people like that, it's not just the national GOP, but governors like Rick Perry who run the risk of reaping the whirlwind. That said, why isn't Medina hammering "Governor 40 Percent" harder with the Trans Texas Corridor?

Finally, let's not forget that many Tea Party groups at least skirt with, or even holds hands with, racists and white supremacists. And, yes, Tea Party leaders of all the different groups each have the onus on themselves to disavow that.

February 17, 2010

Mossad thugs behind Dubai assassination?

Stolen passports? Questions about government involvement? Sure sounds like Mossad, not any British Israelis, was behind the assassination of Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

After all, despite official denials, all the Israeli media are treating this as a Mossad action. They're just debating the moral, policy, and skills details and wisdom thereof.

More fallout inside Israel is now happening, including the fact that Mossad has been been dumb enough to steal passports before -- and get caught before.

Pass the House jobs bill, if any

David Leonhardt, after explaining how well the Obama stimulus plan actually worked, said that if we are going to have a jobs bill/second stimulus, the House version is MUCH better than the Senate one. No shock there.

Don't drive that Corolla!

Toyota's latest problem? Power steering problems on some of its Corollas.

Meanwhile, showing Toyota still "doesn't get it" on the PR front, it says it's "considering" a recall. Considering?

And company President Akio Toyoda says he won't attend a congressional hearing. Not sure that's the best decision either.

February 16, 2010

Perry panders to Medina voters with EPA attack

So, Texas is now officially the first state to, in essence, try state nullification of federal laws by legal entanglement with its challenge of the EPA's greenhouse gases endangerment finding from last year.

It's by no means the last, as Virginia has immediately followed suit.

Her in the Lone Star Numb Nuts GOP state, Gov. Perry is clearly pandering to Debra Medina backers on the nullification issue, as she has staked out a firm ground on this issue.

Second, Virginia jumping in shows that, as with the public healthcare issue of a month, that this is a coordinated offensive. It's getting energy from the recent minor to minor-moderate errors by the IPCC and the Daily Mail's (UK) hack job on the East Anglia climate center's director.

The 'coma communicator' wasn't doing so after all

Remember Rom Houben, the Belgian man who allegedly was typing as public communication after years in a coma? It wasn't him, after all; it was all facilitated communication.

That said, researchers still believe his mind is somehow reachable.

Amazon gets its panties in a wad about "sh*t"

I recently read a book called "The Big Necessity," a fascinating look at sanitation issues around the modern world. (It's also a depressing look, when you read that more than 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation, and that people who die from "water-borne diseases" are really dying from shit-borne ones.)

Anyway, despite the author talking about such puns/waggery, etc. early in the book, she does quote people using the word "shit" in a non-profane/cursing way, all while noting that as sexual vulgarity has lost some shock value, defecation certainly hasn't, because of extra prudery there.

I noticed, though, that the review hadn't been posted after a couple of days.

And, sure enough, Amazon spiked it, due to censorship, claiming it contained a profanity, namely, in the title, despite me using the asterisk, as here.

My response, in full:
First, the word was asterisked as "sh*t."

Second, it is NOT a profanity, as the book is about the shit of sanitation and the author even quotes people using that word.

YOU are part of the problem, on this issue.

Well, you gave me something to blog about, if nothing else. Thanks!

I suggest you re-look at my review. And then post it.

And, in a follow-up e-mail, Amazon won't change its mind.

If Powell's Books would import my old Amazon reviews and had a way of doing that, or Goodreads would, I'd stop reviewing at Amazon. And, if Powell's had more selection, I'd stop buying at Amaazon, too.

That said, with the follow-up e-mail, I'll have to check, the eBay-owned website for Half Price Books, to see if it can meet or beat Amazon's prices on some stuff in my cart.

Oh, here's the irony and hypocrisy. Amazon has a book by a survivor of Auschwitz. It's title? "Scheisshaus Luck."

Effing Amazon prissy-pants censors.

February 15, 2010

Dick Cheney: I am a war criminal

On ABC's This Week yesterday, Uncle Fester confessed to being a big supporter of waterboarding.

As Andrew Sullivan notes, it's not only a war crime, but one with no statute of limitations. And, either the death penalty or life in prison as a sentence.

Of course, Obama has the balls of a two-week-old mouse, so nothing will happen here.

That said, Glenn Greenwald notes that Cheney is performing a bitch-slap of Obama, to put it bluntly.

But, the precedent of Pinochet in mind, or that of Henry Kissinger, if I were Dick Cheney, I wouldn't travel abroad. That said, if I knew he'd get arrested elsewhere, I'd pack his bags for him.

Linda Tripp: Even more delusional than thought

Per a New York Times review, that's one of the things you'll find in “The Death of American Virtue,” by Ken Gormley.

The NYT gives Obama a 'war on terror' smackdown

This is a simple yet strong editorial about Binyam Mohammad, Mahar Arar and the Obama Administration's utter hypocrisy on civil liberties and torture.

February 14, 2010

It's the Congressional Black Caucus Shakedown!

Drawing in big bucks from folks like the rent-to-own business, predatory in minority neighborhoods? Check? And, from Big Tobacco, when more minorities smoke than the national average? Also check.

Quotes like this?
“I’ll always do my best to protect what really matters to you,” (Congressman William Lacy) Clay told rent-to-own executives, who agreed to hold their 2008 annual convention in St. Louis, his home district.


Looks like the Congressional Black Caucus has taken a page from the Jesse Jackson playbook, when only $1 million of an amazing $55 million it got from 2004-08 actually went to its PAC; the rest went to a largely unregulated nonprofit network slush fund/gravy train.

And that's not all. The analysis and research piece is four webpages long; go read it.

Don't expect quick action on don't ask, don't tell

The Pentagon plans a yearlong internal review in order not to have abrupt changes. That alone pushes it past 2010 elections.

Defense Secretary Gates worries about abrupt changes, too. He'll caution Obama enough that it will get pushed past the 2012 election.

'Ugly evangelical Americans' — I hope Haiti has a 'hanging judge'

And, in the middle of earthquake recovery, the government finds both the means and the cojones (what's the French for that?) to throw the book at the child-stealing Idaho Baptists.

How directly the numbnuttery of Pat Robertson and his ilk on Haiti's "pact with the devil" is on this issue, and how much this is just general, "ugly evangelical American" evangelism gone awry, as with the Michigan gun scope maker, the missionaries in Afghanistan a few years ago, or whatever, I'm not sure.

But, "ugly evangelical Americanism" it is, indeed.

Would that President Barack H. Obama would find some cojones to condemn this, too.

Update, Feb. 4: It turns out Laura Silsby, the head of the Idaho Baptists, has a history of legal woes back home. A Christian missionary committing fraud? Not paying wages?

Update, Feb. 14: Hmmm... One of the Baptists' lawyers may be a suspect in an international child trafficking cartel. More to follow, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald notes the 'wingers utter hypocrisy on this case and any actual or alleged human rights violations of the Baptists as they are being detained.

Goldman Sachs wrecks foreign economies, too!

Not content to pass out derivatives of various sorts here in the U.S. like a Pez candy dispenser, when some more fiscally "loose" members of the European Union sought some creative budget help in order to meet the deficit standards for the E.U.'s monetary union in the Euro, Goldman Sachs was only too glad to peddle similar bullshit to Greece, Italy and elsewhere.

I'm missing Glenn Beck on the Huntsville shooting

Did you notice it happened at the Shelby Center, surely named after Alabama's "Senator Hold"? And, Prof. Bishop was educated at that bastion of socialism, Harvard?

The only possible conclusion is that guns are dangerous only when in the hands of socialists, and that Prof. Bishop was an obvious part of the socialist agenda.

I hear Glenn Beck warming up his vocal chords as we speak.