SocraticGadfly: 3/7/10 - 3/14/10

March 13, 2010

No 'scientific' tuna fishing, either, Japan!

It's clear, per the trend line at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference, that a complete ban on bluefin tuna trade for the nonce is likely to be adopted. And, international fishing scofflaw Japan has already said it won't honor the treaty.

So, to invoke a stereotype? Sushi-loving enviros (I am the latter but not the former) need to boycott, at a minimum, ANY sushi food imported from Japan. At a maximum, they need to boycott other Japanese products.

Also, despite Japanese howls, it's their citizens' voraciousness which have necessitated the trade ban in the first place. (Japan eats 80 percent of bluefin consumption worldwide.) So much for Japanese environmentalism. How would you like it if somebody started whacking down Japanese cherry trees?

A 10K-sized McMansion is NOT 'green'

I don't care if the size of "just" the house itself is "only" 6,500 square feet.

It sounds like the system Berkeley used to green-certify this behemoth is lacking in some areas, such as amount of mature trees to be cut down, use, or lack thereof, of recycled materials, and more.

Three more strikes and you're out, antivaxxers

Three more federal vaccine court rulings have all rejected a vaccines-autism link; specifically, all cases ruled out the thimerosal-autism link.

Of course, to the true crusader, these court rulings are surely part of the conspiracy! No, I'm not joking. Proof?
The Coalition for Vaccine Safety, a group of organizations that believe vaccines cause autism, dismissed the rulings.

“The deck is stacked against families in vaccine court,” said Rebecca Estepp, of the coalition’s steering committee. “Government attorneys defend a government program using government-funded science before government judges. Where’s the justice in that?” The coalition claims to represent 75,000 families.

Amy Carson, founder of Moms Against Mercury, who has a son with brain damage, called the vaccine court arrangement “like the mice overseeing the cheese.”

I told you I wasn't joking.

As I've said before, I sympathize with the pain of parents, mothers especially, who suffer with the struggles of raising autistic children.

BUT, but — many, many other parents in general and mothers in particular go through such struggles without grasping at conspiracy theories in general or blaming vaccines in particular.

And, in doing so, endangering their children and other children, on the vaccines issue, and dumbing down America, and paranoiafying it up, at the same. time.

Update, Jan. 6, 2011: Well, we know now that the lies of Andrew Wakefield involved deliberate fraud. So, it's strike 4, or 4,000, and counting. Though antivaxxers won't own up to that.

Probably, the exposure of the deliberate fraud is itself a conspiracy.

Amazon becomes Thugazon on sales taxes

The book giant just told Colorado "eff you" for attempting to charge sales taxes for its online sales. Basically, it's Amazon's old game, ramped up. Colorado needs to take Amazon to federal court, is what needs to happen.

Go, Kucinich, Go!

I am totally with Heather Michon — if Dennis Kucinich's vote kills the current version of health care reform, two thumbs up. John Nichols notes that Kucinich also voted against the original House bill.

Both people note, as I do and do many other real progressives, that this bill will do nothing of note to rein in private insurance costs, little to rein in pharmaceuticals costs, and therefore is largely a sham.

That's compared to Democratic Party-line squish bloggers like Kevin Drum who say, "Pass something and it will get better later," using the stair-step argument.


Forty-five years after we got Medicare and Medicaid, we haven't done a lot of stair-stepping since then, have we?

March 12, 2010

Why is Don McLeroy a racist?

It's not enough, now, for McLeroy and his Christian conservative cohort on the Texas State Board of Education to deny children the right to critical thinking by barring discussion of the First Amendment from social studies textbooks.

No, now they're into racism, too, denying that any Tejanos were killed at the Alamo.
"I cannot go back to my community and say I participated in perpetrating this fraud on the students of this state,” said board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, one of the four negative votes.

Yep, it's a fraud against history, a fraud against student education and more. A Texas high school diploma should probably be stamped with that word, the way things are going.

One of the ultraconservatives on the board claimed the Tejanos weren't "leaders" there:
Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, questioned the need for the requirement, noting that no Hispanics were considered leaders at the Alamo.

"They were just among the other people who died at the Alamo. It would be awkward to say that teachers and students should identify people who died at the Alamo," she said.

Really? A Texas city is named after Juan Seguin, but, he's not a "leader"? I guess the racial winners write history, eh? Jim Bowie married a Hispanic, became a Mexican citizen and converted to Catholicism, but Tejanos don't deserve to be considered as "leaders" because ... they were darker-skinned and Catholic? (Note: Most of the Anglo "leaders" did not do either one, though both were required by the Mexican government, thereby initiating the general Anglo-Texan disdain for the rule of law except when it suits one's own interest.)

Immigration, health care and reconciliation

So, Lindsey Graham thinks he has a good immigration bill but, in essence, is holding GOP support for it hostage to Democrats' possible Senate use of reconciliation procedures to pass a health care bill.

And Graham is supposed to be a "sensible" conservative?

Besides, co-sponsor Chuck Schumer already can't get any GOP sponsors besides Graham. The refusal of whites in the Texas GOP to even vote for Hispanics of their own party, here at the state level, is emblematic, eh?

That said, is the bill really that good?

While it may toughen up border security, it appears to have some sort of "amnesty" without using that word, while also launching a guest worker program.

I'm in favor of "tagging" those already here illegally, to give them first shot at such guest worker jobs, after they're already deported, though. And only with that.

I also think we need to put an automatic COLA on the minimum wage to encourage more of these jobs to be filled by citizens first.

Scat for cops and counties

In Massachusetts, we see the negative fallout of the War on Drugs, as a SCAT police task force gets fatter yet off of asset forfeiture sales. With the current recession and cuts in local, county and state budgets, even for law enforcement, these asset forfeiture sales get ever more tempting. Unfortunately.

In Ohio, county commissioners want to come to a resolution on some commuting SCAT. Good luck; smaller community mass transit always needs help.

No recession at Monsanto!

And, the federal government would like to know why not; just why are seed prices skyrocketing?

That said, Monsanto's increasing monopolization of the field's been going on since Clinton years and it, like ADM, pays out cash well to farm-state Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle.

In other words, if you expect Team Obama and Big Ag feeder Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to actually do anything, think again.

March 11, 2010

Why does Don McLeroy hate the First Amendment?

Along with his theocratic compadres on the Texas State Board of Education? The seven social conservatives, joined by three more "moderate" GOPers on the board, blocked a provision that would have required high school social students students to learn about the First Amendment:
(Board member Mavis) Knight said all she was trying to do was encourage study of the First Amendment language that states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Oh, no, we can't have Texas school children being taught analytical thinking.

And, of course, that's of a parcel with not just the SBOE, but fundamentalists in general.

After all, if "we" have all these fundamentals, concrete and inerrant, there's nothing to analyze. And, no need to question the "powers that be."

Unless, they're a bunch of libruls, let alone stinking godless communist real libruls.

Update, March 12: Now McLeroy and cohort are racists, too, denying that any Tejanos were killed at the Alamo.

U.S. is still 'under God'

Even if you don't have a deity, you're assigned one by civic religion, even per the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously liked Michael Newdow.

The court also ruled that it's "In God We Trust," even for those of us who don't.

Both phrases are textbook exemplars of civic religion in times of crisis.

Most intelligent people know the "Under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance (U.S. and U.S.-molded Philippines the only two countries in the world with a flag pledge) as part of the Second Red Scare in 1954.

For those who don't know about the coinage, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase pushed for the motto on it in 1864, as he worried, along with many other Northerners, that war weariness might be setting in. Too bad Lincoln couldn't have given him his Second Inaugural Address nine months in advance, telling Chase and like-minded people that "the prayers of neither (the North nor the South) were fully answered."

That said, if your nutters enough to compare this to racial segregation, Newdow, you kind of deserved to lose.

Tiger coming back at Bay Hill - or not

Tiger Woods reportedly will return to golfing at Arnold Palmer's event. And Ari Fleischer will advise him on media strategy.

Now other sources say he's not coming back until The Masters, if then. Looks like Ari has flunked his first media management assignment, or else Tiger's agent, Mark Steinberg, whiffed again.

In either case on a return date, Tiger better hope that Ari learned something from how he mishandled Mark McGwire. Or, how he lied for Bush.

That said, Tiger is more genial than McGwire, and less of a bullheaded whatever than Bush.

At ESPN, Gene Wojciechowski is of the same mindset as I am about the hiring of Fleischer. He also has 10 questions for Tiger. One of them:
Did you suffer injuries in the November 2009 car crash near your home and if so, did they require surgery (cosmetic or otherwise) and will they affect your ability to play golf?

The other nine are good, too. The include three about Tiger's exact relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea.

Toyota, Audi and sudden acceleration

When first reading about Toyota's sudden acceleration problems, and without excusing its fumbled response to the situation, I wondered whether, like Audi's similar problem in the late 1980s, we weren't seeing, in part at least, driver error.

And now, Richard Schmidt, who helped work on the Audi investigation, says exactly that.

As for people who think drivers wouldn't freeze and panic that long, the recent Prius "sudden acceleration" saga of James Sikes suggests, oh yes they would — or, at least, they could.

So, without defending Toyota and its response, let's not rush to judgment, either. Schmidt may be right.

And, per a new post, I'm wondering if Mr. Sikes isn't lawsuit fishing.

"Punish ACORN' bill is indeed a bill of attainder, Mr. Const Law prez

Both lawyers and educated people...

Who said the "punish ACORN" bill was, indeed, a bill of attainder.

Are right.

Judge Gershon has made permanent her ruling from last year, despite the pleadings of our constitutional law scholar president's DOJ to reconsider:

I just lost yet more respect for the Obama Administration, and the man in charge.
In asking the judge to reconsider her December ruling, the government cited a Dec. 7 report written by Scott Harshbarger, former attorney general for Massachusetts. It said the report "reinforces Congress' purpose in preventing fraud, waste and abuse" by describing ACORN's long-standing management problems.

The report concluded that ACORN leadership at every level was thin, the government noted.

The judge, however, wrote that it was "unmistakable that Congress determined ACORN's guilt before defunding it." She said Congress is entitled to investigate ACORN but cannot "rely on the negative results of a congressional or executive report as a rationale to impose a broad, punitive funding ban on a specific, named organization."

Beyond my respect level for Obama going down yet further, I also wonder if somebody has a list of every Member of Congress, of whatever political party affiliation, who is a lawyer and still voted for this bill in the first place.

March 10, 2010

Did Nomar juice, too?

With one-time Boston Red Sox iconic shortstop Nomar Garciaparra officially retiring today in a BoSox uni, at the young age of 32, the inevitable question arises: did he roid up? Given his bulked-up power after a couple of years in Boston, and his quick body breakdown after being traded, Yahoo's Steve Henson says there's good circumstantial evidence he did.

Dems' satisfaction with U.S. direction drops

True, among people of all political stripes, it's sagged over the past year, and is now at 19 percent. But, by percentage of decline, its worst among Democrats.

No indication whether it's progressives frustrated with Obama or what.

Another 'benefit' of invading Iraq

Birth defects in Falluja. As bad as a newborn with three heads.

One upside to recession – killing homeownership myths

The current recession is based on two things — investment banks making up funny new investments like CDOs, and an explosive bubble in home values, which itself partially fueled the CDOs.

I've always thought the "home as investment" idea was a myth, and that, if the recession put a stake through its heart, that would be one good side effect, and now, Liz Pulliam Weston writes the column I haven't about exactly that idea. Specifically, she skewers the remodeling as investment.

Now, if we could just get states to pass truth in homeownership laws ...

Demand real filibusters in Senate

As this column notes, if you get rid of "dual tracking" in the Senate, a real filibuster would actually grind the Senate to a halt, and a smart Democrat could then pull a page from Harry Truman's playbook.

March 09, 2010

Texas, Tricky Ricky Perry face huge budget holes

First, a deficit as high as $15 billion by 2011 can't be cured by 5 percent budget cuts. Neither, unless a lot of Texas voters are even dumber, or more hypnotized by Gov. Helmethair than I think, can the gap be filled by "fees."

So, Tricky Ricky, and Speaker Joe Straus, having to pick up after former Speaker Kid Craddick, that means either budget slashes or new taxes.

Meanwhile, showing both the stupidity and dangerousness of an every other year Legislature, the state has a shortfall of nearly $2 million in the current budget.
As for the next budget, John O'Brien, the Legislative Budget Board's director, who oversees a large staff serving 10 key lawmakers who track fiscal matters, said the shortfall will be at least $11 billion and could be as high as $15 billion.

"We have a deficit that's larger than the rainy day fund," he said, speaking of an emergency fund that he said will have slightly more than $8 billion by next session.

And, we're just six months into the current two-year budget cycle.

Will Tricky Ricky be forced to call a special session before November?

March 08, 2010

The torturous details of waterboarding

As you read the sickening details of how CIA agents documented details of each waterboarding "case," the spook shack's torturers come off as sounding like ... Josef Mengele. It's that sick:
The memo also contains a last, little-noticed paragraph that may be the most disturbing of all. It seems to say that the detainees subjected to waterboarding were also guinea pigs. The language is eerily reminiscent of the very reasons the Nuremberg Code was written in the first place. That paragraph reads as follows:

"NOTE: In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment."

Nuremburg, indeed.

Former Obama advisor takes him to woodshed

Marshall Ganz wonders aloud even if Team Obama wants a healthcare fail so as to stay in permanent election mode. He also says Organizing for America is redundant and more.

March 07, 2010

JPII sainthood takes a step back

I think it helps, when a would-be Catholic saint allegedly performs a miraculous healing, that the person should stay healed.

You've got a bit of a fail here, John Paul II. Maybe Herr Ratzinger will get the Vatican spin machine cranked up.

Anonymous sourcing: ain't just the MSM

Glenn Greenwald rightly bemoans what seems to be a worsening of the use of anonymous sourcing in inside-the-Beltway reporting.

But, as I e-mailed him, this isn't just a "mainstream media" phenomenon.

I’ll hold out Talking Points Memo as a prime example, since it developed from “just a blog” into doing its own news reporting.

A couple of months ago, for example (sorry, don’t have link), one of its staff reported the “latest” on Obama’s heath care push, with a couple of different angles from inside the WH. Nothing close to national security involved, of course.

But... At least five or six different anonymously sourced comments.

Well, I was, to be blunt, disgusted to some degree when I saw that, and I think a few other TPM regular readers were too. That said, neither the reporter nor Josh Marshall commented in response, said we’re sorry, etc.

I’ll venture a guess that as “new media” tries to get more and more into reporting, not just commentary, it will do more of the same selling itself out.

So, let’s not say this is just an MSM problem.

Jim Imhofe, nuclear nutbar

The Oklahoma wingnut senator writes letters to the editor, too.

Hey, if you've got that much time on your hands, put together the Senate GOP health reform plan.