SocraticGadfly: 4/4/10 - 4/11/10

April 10, 2010

Tiger Woods ad with dad itself a falsehood

ABC reports the words Earl Woods allegedly spoke to Tiger were actually to Earl's wife, Kultida!

So, yet another bit of fraud in the "Tiger comeback management tour." Did Tiger agent Mark Steinberg know this in advance? Or, his new non-reality-based image manager, Ari Fleischer?

Just how unequal is income in America?

These 15 charts lay it out in detail.

Not so fast on Kagan for SCOTUS

As this NYT opinion blog notes, as Solicitor General, she argued in favor of the Kentucky Supreme Court's finding that a lawyer is not required to tell an immigrant that pleading guilty to a certain offense could require his or her deportation.

Yeah, yeah, I know. She was doing the bidding of bosses Eric Holder and Barack Obama. Still, did she try to talk them out of this stance? Obama, and, AFAIK, Holder, aren't so "soft" in the nonsense of the War on Drugs as the mainstream media portrays.

April 09, 2010

Dawn Johnsen withdraws - or was she abandoned?

The Party of No, the Party of "Nopey, Nopey," if you're Sarah Palin, kills an Obama nominee. Of course, so does a president letting Dawn Johnsen dangle in the wind a full year without either pushing for a vote, or now, at least giving her a recess appointment.

Maybe, as Obama becoms more and more not just Bush Light, but ... what ... Bush Dark, no pun intended? on gutting civil liberties in the name of the War on Terror ... maybe Johnsen was abandoned by her would-be boss, who recognized her being stuck in Senate confirmation limbo as the perfect way to send a message.

Now, after first posting this, I see that Glenn Greenwald agrees with me in spades.

It's the Southern Nutbar Leadership Conference!

First, are Joseph Lowry, Martin Luther King Jr., etc, rolling over in their graves at this blatant and offensive ripoff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the name of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference?

Second, when Newt Gingrich is your voice of reason, you know you're in for Grade AA salted nuttery. Of course, La. Gov. Bobby Jindal is more sensible yet. But, that's not hard to do.

Third, when Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman get together, nuttery is sure to reduplicate, as is mangled syntax and mangled thought. So, Ms. "Nopey Nopey," you're the party of "no," but you're not? Oh, and like Shrub, yes, learn how to pronounce "nuclear."

Fouth, when will GOP talking pieholes stop ripping off 1980s anthem rock songs for theme music? Survivor ought to sue for character defamation.

Pope Benedict goes paranoid with 'anti-hate' claim

Yep, that's the latest from the Vatican. Supposedly all the brouhaha over his cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic priests, and all done so on behalf of his semi-sainted predecessor, John Paul II? It's part of a hate-based anti-Catholic plot.

Yes, non-Catholics hate the church for its anti-female, anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights agenda.

Well, now, we learn, as of April 12, that it's not "everybody" that hates Catholics so much as it is ... those effing god-killing Jews.

A couple of months ago, supposedly, the Catholic Church was being persecuted like Jews in the Holocaust.

The Catholic Church is being persecuted BY JEWS.
(R)etired Bishop Giacomo Babini of the Italian town of Grosseto told the Catholic Pontifex website that the Catholic pedophile scandal is being orchestrated by the "eternal enemies of Catholicism, namely the freemasons and the Jews, whose mutual entanglements are not always easy to see through… I think that it is primarily a Zionist attack, in view of its power and refinement. They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God-killers."
What's that sound I hear from the Vatican? It's crickets, I believe.

Hey, Herr Ratzinger? Put the shovel down!

More seriously? I could give a rat's ass one way or the other about Catholic doctrine. OR about more liberal Catholics bitching about it. They can vote with their feet or their wallets. And, until they do, they can stop whining outside Catholic circles so much. Vote with your wallets, AND with an e-mail to your bishop, archbishop, etc. about a more liberal next pope, as well as a morth ethical one. (And, some antitoxin for John Paul III, since John Paul I obviously didn't have any.)

I do care if anybody breaks the law, especially something as egregious as child sexual abuse. I do care if people use positions of authority to help them break such laws. I do care if their compadres (pun intended, here) and superiors aid and abet their lawbreaking through cover-ups, stonewalling and similar actions. I do care if the world's only religious body to be recognized as an independent nation hides behind diplomatic law. I do care if it trivializes the Holocaust, which has roots all the way back in the First Pogram conducted by knights on the way to the First Crusade.

Beyond the child sex abuse scandal, Benedict Ratzinger has other problems back in his German homeland, anyway.

Uhh, Herr Ratzinger, when you get a chance, between child sex abuse woes and getting Jews mad, and speaking of that, you might want to tackle this:
A chapel built on a mountainside in Germany is turning into a shrine for neo-Nazis after it emerged that it was built with marble and grainte taken from the ruins of Adolf Hitler's luxury retreat.

A swastika was reportedly found carved into one of the wooden beams of the Wegmacher Chapel, which was built in 1997, while local residents claim a number of shaven-headed, leather jacket-wearing 'pilgrims' leave behind notes of praise to Hitler and candles burning in his memory.

It was only recently that the Bavarian government admitted that material from the wreckage of Hitler's retreat, the Berghof in Berchtesgaden, was used in the construction of the chapel.

Some of the stones are from the terrace of the Berghof - quarried by Jewish slave labourers in concentration camps.
Oh. My. Fucking. Doorknob. Why the German Catholic Church hasn't taken the simple solution and just razed this place to the ground, I have no idea.

Meanwhile, back to the sex abuse scandal. Plenty of Catholics in robes besides Herr Ratzinger need to put down their shovels.

First, in what is indeed appalling, the bishop of Tenerife, Spain, like U.S. rape case trials of 30 years ago, raises the old, ugly, "they were asking for it" angle, this time in relation to abused kids.

And, via Ed Brayton, George Neumayr, editor of Catholic World Report, claims that people like me really don't care about the kids. He doesn't go down the Vatican's Catholic-bashing angle; rather, he says, the non-Catholic secular culture is the real abuser of children.

Update, April 9: And now, we see Herr Ratzinger has real reason to be afraid. The AP has uncoverd a letter with Ratzi's on signature, opposing the defrocking of American priest Stephen Kiesle.
AP said the Rev Kiesle was sentenced to three years of probation in 1978 for lewd conduct with two young boys in San Francisco. It said the Oakland diocese had recommended Kiesle's removal in 1981 but that that did not happen until 1987.

Cardinal Ratzinger took over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases, in 1981.
Yeah, but Herr Ratzinger was too busy serving as John Paul II's attack dog on Catholic liberals to take the time to deal with this.

Update, April 14:From one canard to another: Now it's the old claim that homosexuality causes pedophilia. If you're a gay priest, keep your head very low.

National Science Board goes chicken-shit on evolution

The board, which oversees the National Science Foundation, omitted questions on evolution and the big bang from a biennial survey of science and engineering issues.

(B)ecause the survey questions used to measure knowledge of the two topics force respondents to choose between factual knowledge and religious beliefs.
Well, the NSF is about science, not belief. Or, at least, I thought it was. Apparently not. John Bruer, a philosopher (NOT identified as a philosopher of science) who heads the St. Louis-based James S. McDonnell Foundation (big biz dictating science – that's the "McDonnell" of McDonnell-Douglas fame) took the lead on pulling the two questions.
He calls the survey questions "very blunt instruments not designed to capture public understanding" of the two topics.
That's bullshit, and I'm not the only one to say so:
"I think that is a nonsensical response" that reflects "the religious right's point of view," says Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at Michigan State University in East Lansing who authored the survey 3 decades ago and conducted it for NSF until 2001. "Evolution and the big bang are not a matter of opinion."
Indeed, a mix of the religious right and big biz. Oy.

Scatblogging is again catblogging

Want to keep cats away from plants they might claw up? Scatter spruce or pine boughs, or buy Scat Mat.

China wants to build high-speed rail — in US!

If anything illustrates the United States' collapse into a post-manufacturing nation, per Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" and previous post-Renaissance nation-states (and get a CLUE, David Brooks, "emotional experiences" do NOT "sell"), it's the idea that that China now wants to build high-speed rail in the United States.

Beyond our increasing collapse as a manufacturer, including both GM and GE making more money off credit than products (note that GE wants the Chinese company as a partner), this story illustrates so many other things:
1. The gutting of manufacturing companies for stock $$;
2. The refusal of the government to invest in infrastructure;
3. The Chinese using govt money to boost private companies like this;
4. The cluelessness of U.S. conservatives to all this, and the drag-along factor of neoliberals.

Will Continental try to hook up with United?

Of course, that would mean muscling U.S. Airways aside. Business Week says Continental-United is a better merger, though.
Continental and United belong to the Star Alliance marketing group and have a joint venture with Deutsche Lufthansa AG for trans-Atlantic flights.
So, and especially since the two had exploratory talks in 2008, it would make sense, right? Especially since a larger airline would result:
Together, Houston-based Continental and UAL Corp.’s United would surpass Delta Air Lines Inc. for the top spot in global passenger traffic.
But, maybe that's part of why United went with Airways, as well as the fact that Continental was the one who eventually scrubbed the 2008 talks. Maybe United thinks an airline that big, especially with a new administration, wouldn't pass antitrust scrutiny.

April 08, 2010

Bibi turns tail and runs over nukes

President Barack Obama has a nuclear terrorism summit planned. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was going to attend personally, but instead will send a mid-level deputy after hearing several Muslim nations were going to raise questions about Israel's nuclear arsenal.
Haaretz reported that Egypt and Turkey were planning to demand that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has never officially acknowledged it possesses nuclear weapons; the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prevents nondeclared nuclear powers from acquiring atomic arms.

Some Muslim countries have complained of a double standard in international pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear program while Israel is able to maintain its reported nuclear arsenal.
Is Israel a nuclear terrorist state? No. But, what would happen if someone like Avigdor Lieberman became premier? At least Bibi is sending someone, rather than totally withdrawing his country.

That said, the refusal to sign the NPT has always left Israel open to the accusation of nuclear terrorism, especially since questions about Israel's help in apartheid-era South Africa developing its nuclear program remain unanswered.

Chomsky not so right on brain and language

Yesterday, I blogged about how some of the latest findings in language usage are dialing back past claims about the degree of the brain's modularity.

More on that today; it appears that language usage by the brain is more of a kluge, or "workaround," than has previously been understood.

It probably undercuts, again, claims to human "rationality," too. I'm thinking more and more the old Enlightenment duality between "rational" and "irrational" needs evaluation and modification.

Obama OKs assassinating American citizens

I know Mona has already read this, but Obama has gone beyond Bush and officially okey-dokeyed the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, even Nino Scalia, in the Hamdan case, said you can't do that!.

Greenwald also notes, per the Boston Globe, that general presidential unilateral action on the "War on Terror" was yet another thing Candidate Obama said was a presidential no-no, catching Obama in his biggest flip-flop lie yet on civil liberties:
5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

No. I reject the Bush Administration's claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.
And, the bullshit doesn't stop there.

Elsewhere, Team Obama continues to spout the BushCo bullshit in the "war on terror":
A speech last month from Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser, acknowledged that the international laws of war have not properly contemplated a war against a global terror network. “Those laws of war were designed primarily for traditional armed conflicts among states,” Koh said. “Not conflicts against a diffuse, difficult-to-identify terrorist enemy, therefore construing what is ‘necessary and appropriate’ under the AUMF requires some ‘translation,’ or analogizing principles from the laws of war governing traditional international conflicts.”
And yet, Obamiacs will continue to either turn a blind eye to this, or try to explain it away.

April 07, 2010

My, what a formerly unmotivated Today Newspapers employee can do

If Today Newspapers had had as many ads on its website as The Suburban now does, it never would have folded.

On the other hand, since it has no real, and definitely no really fresh, news on the site, those ads may be selling at bargain basement rates.

Discovery sells out to Palin – fight back

It's simply disgusting for the Discovery Channel to sell out its environmental history to host a Sarah Palin show, and even more disgusting to lie about why it's doing this.

But, you can fight back. Sign the petition to Discovery!

RIP Wilma Mankiller — but no hagiography

A great activist for both women's and Native American rights has passed away.

That said, even Wilma Mankiller wasn't perfect.

Descendants of Cherokee-owned black slaves remain excluded from tribal rolls, despite many of them having Cherokee blood, analogous to descendants of white-owned black slaves, and also despite many a Cherokee having a dash — or well more than a dash — of white blood.

Unfortunately, Salon's story says nothing about the struggle of the slave descendants for recognition, nor about Mankiller's role in denying them this status.

The story has its complexities, in that the "white father" government in Washington, after forcing the Cherokee to accept that slavery was over (in 1866! the Cherokee remained holdouts!) also tried to push them into accepting the freedmen as part of the tribe. That said, due to the amount of racial commingling already among the Cherokees, why they resisted this already back then, I don't know, other than to say this is yet more evidence that racism is not confined to Caucasians.

Treat Karzai like Marcos?

A former Reagan-era officer in the State Department has some interesting ideas on how to marginalize Afghan President Hamid Karzai, all while meeting President Barack Obama's putative timetable for a surge then de-escalation.

Of course, Bing oversells Reagan's role in undercutting Marcos, ignores that Reagan was pressured into doing this, and ignores that Reagan gave Ferdinand and Imelda red-carpet treatment the moment they hit U.S. soil. Other than all that, and without Bing's attempt at enshrining St. Ronald of Reagan, the general idea is good.

April 06, 2010

Deep thought - Obama, Clinton and race

If Bill Clinton was America's "first black president," is Barack Obama America's "first post-racial president"?

Tiger Woods - a fail on the ad course

Tiger Woods may have 14 major championships, but, in terms of delivering more bucks, he's a duffer on the advertising pitchman links.

Questioning the brain's modularity a bit more

In recent years, the idea that the human brain is "massively modular" have come under more scrutiny. The latest on this? Different languages use different parts of the brain. I'm not saying the brain is not at all modular, just less modular than has been claimed.

And, this has implications far beyond language. Like for evolutionary psychology.

I'm not shy, I'm bored

Well, I'm shy, or what you call shy, because I'm bored — and sensitive.

Both ideas make sense. Especially if Jung and followers were also at all right on the "draining" issue of too much social interaction for introverts, this all ties together.

In other psych news, here's some thoughts about why depression is on the rise in the modern world.

Top 1,000 reviewer on Amazon

Reviewing almost no classical fiction and absolutely ZERO modern everyday novels, I am now a top1,000 reviewer. Here's what I'm reading.

April 05, 2010

Religious belief may just be irrational

AND linked with a continuum of other irrational beliefs, per a new study in Finland.

It sounds like a very interesting article. Now (and not to oversell MRIs) it would be interesting to take this to the next level. Are their brains functioning differently in some specific ways?

And, if at least "opennmindedness" to religious belief does pair with the other beliefs, who will tell New Atheist "guru" (not in MY book he ain't) Sam Harris, already on the record as accepting the possibility of psi phenomena?

Masters mystique kills Tiger booing

A few fans have already said they're worried about Masters Nazis bouncing them if they get negatively vocal about Tiger Woods.

Well, I'll do it for you.

Eff you, Tiger!

And, eff you, Augusta National.

You can thank me later, folks.

Real estate bubble hits churches too

In the past decade, many of them overbuilt and overbought as much as many of their parishioners, and on as bad of mortgages. They're now paying the price. Especially for churches who preached the prosperity gospel, this is a definite moment of schadenfreude. And, interestingly, it's non-denominational congregations that are taking the biggest hit.

April 04, 2010

Can we have some silence, please?

Why? It's good for you, on both mental and physical health. Yet another way in which we the Americans could learn from elsewhere.

Stop eavesdropping, Obama!

Even the New York Times officially says "Stop it." It even compares the ideas surrounding warrantless wiretapping to the "double-secret probation" of "Animal House."
President Obama should read this court ruling with chagrin and eliminate warrantless spying. It is also far past time to stop hiding behind spurious, often ludicrous, claims of national security.
However, The One, perhaps as messianic on national security as Shrub but in a "cooler" way, will go on his self-assured path of knowing what's best for Americans in this area.