SocraticGadfly: 8/22/10 - 8/29/10

August 28, 2010

Ugggh on Tony La Russa hearting Glenn Beck

Showing up for Glenn Beck's crapola, and trying to rope Pujols into it, denials aside ... focus on getting the Cards into the playoffs.

John Cornyn, 14th Amendment schwaffler

oes this surprise you? Big John, the reported reasonable conservative, again got overtaken by Whack Job John, the tea party panderer type, only to now back off again.

If the teabaggers maintain enough strength, he's going to get a primary challenger next time around, don't doubt it.

August 27, 2010

Wilderness Act lies of omission at the NYT

The old gray lady runs a guest op-ed by a person who, oh so innocuously, argues that the intent of the Wilderness Act was never to ban mountain bikes.

His tagline? "Ted Stroll is an attorney."

What the NYT doesn't tell you is that Stroll is an active, even activist, member of the International Mountain Biking Association. But, if you Google, you'll find other articles like this.

Legally flawless on narrow analytical ground? Perhaps.

Well-written, as far as legal argumentation? NO.

Forced analogies, and omissions of things such as how mountain bikers deliberately alter trails in nonwilderness areas make for a poor column.

The education of Andrew Bacevich

Now that David Hackworth is dead, Bacevich is the dean of retired colonels who never got their stars because they refused to play Army politics and from which the rest of us benefit.

And, he takes it to a whole new level with his new book, "Washington Rules." Salon has an excerpt.

August 26, 2010

Why I despair of The Nation

Yes, Eric Alterman is right in that Obama has faced a ton of GOP obstructionism. But, even with that, he could have done better, even a lot better, than she has.

Barbara Ehrenreich DOES get it. In one of the pieces in response to Alterman's subscription-only "Kabuki Democracy," she says:

Alterman acknowledges the problem only tentatively, observing that "one might argue that this [Democratic] faith in government's ability to improve people's lives is misplaced." You betcha. The role of the left should not be to uphold or defend the government, meaning, for now, the corpo-Obama-Geithner-Petraeus state, but to change it, drastically and from the ground up. That may sound overly radical to Alterman, who seems to want "progressives who think of themselves as left of liberal" to abandon even that tiny distinction. But as the Tea Partyers keep reminding us in their nasty and demented ways, these are revolutionary times.

Beyond that, what's with Norm Ornstein getting to write in The Nation? Is it going to become The New Republic five years from now?

Of course, without considering third-party progressive alternatives, we already know that, after a modicum of hand-wringing for show, The Nation will endorse Obama for re-election in 2012.

August 25, 2010

Obama needs to be Machiavellian on Park51

Here's what Obama should really say about Park51 and Muslim religious freedom. He should say that this tarring of all Muslims with the same brush looks suspiciously similar to the medieval Christian "blood guilt" claim made against Jews, based on the Gospel of Matthew. He should ask whether Jews, having been at the receiving end of that for more than a millennium, really want to be dishing it out now.

Some of the Jewish wing of neoconservatives might actually be shamed; others might look more askance at the fundamentalist Christian wing. And, there's the Machiavellianism: maybe Prez Kumbaya, if he sang from a different playbook and found some cojones, could split neocons.

Now, here's more on why Obama needs to do this, and why it might work: Jeffrey Goldberg's latest nuttery:
Goldberg claims, hopefully (but probably not) in jest, that occasionally "heated" anti-Muslim rhetoric is dwarfed by "open bigotry toward evangelical Christians" on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. If anyone can point to anything published in the Times that is as hysterically anti-Christian as, say, any random week's worth of Andy McCarthy's contributions to the National Review, please let me know.

But, we know Obama is pretty tone deaf to much besides Kumbaya, and that he pawned his balls to the Revvvvv. Jeremiah Wright, or somebody, long ago.

So, this won't really happen.

'Poorly Made in China'

I'm in the middle of reading a quite informative new (2009) book, "Poorly Made in China."

The author, a non-Chinese U.S. native, learned Chinese as an undergrad and eventually got an MBA. Not wanting a stereotypical US finance job, he became a middleman in southeast China's economic heartland -- a middleman between U.S. importers and Chinese manufacturers.

First, many American companies dealing with China are just that -- importers. Their companies never made a thing in America. They're start-up or near start-up entrepreneurs, aglow at the idea of selling cheap made-in-China stuff like health and beauty aids (and how dumb is it to ship 90 percent-water shampoo across the ocean) as house or generic brands to sell at places like Dollar General.

And, Chinese plants cheat in the manufacturing process every way they can, besides the obvious, exposed ones such as lead in paint and melamine in dog food. They simply refuse to pay for internal quality inspectors, then try to obstruct U.S. ones, people like the middleman author.

Then, when they really get busted? Like the lead on Barbies last year? Did the Chinese manufacturer apologize to Mattel?

NO. Remember what happened? Eventually, Mattel apologized to the Chinese manufacturer for bringing its integrity, its Asian "face," into doubt.

And, that's another theme of the book. Asian "face" gets mingled with a developing Chinese aggressiveness, and you get more and more shenanigans like this.

Meanwhile, it appears, from this book and many other things, the Chinese Potemkin economy is a 3-legged stool: Beijing, local governors, and the manufacturers themselves. The manufacturers are often playing off Beijing and local governors, probably through a mix of threats, kickbacks, etc.

American importers have a mix of ongoing infatuation with China, fear of leaving if a competitor stays, fear of provoking a manufacturer if a competitor doesn't, and more. It's hugely dysfunctional.

And move? To where?

Vietnam? Perhaps more corrupt in some ways, and just not enough population, etc, to absorb significant amounts of Chinese manufacturing.

India? Worse infrastructure than China. Plus, mix a decentralized government and democracy, and bureaucracy can be worse. Plus, there's never one central person to bribe, if needed.

Back to Mexico? With all the drug violence? Less and less likely.

Anyway, I'll provide more when I'm done with the book.

August 24, 2010

How to write a Bobby Thomson and baseball column right

Instead of Ross Douthat's moralistic dreck linking the just-deceased Bobby Thomson and the just-indicted Roger Clemens, instead read Bob Herbert's childhood nostalgia tale about the day Thomson homered.

August 23, 2010

Tiger, Elin officially split

Tiger’s divorce is official. Terms sealed. For Tiger, it’s not the money, but how much a cut of the “shared parenting” of the kids he will get, I’m thinking. Still think he won’t be in the best emotional shape for Ryder Cup; I’d still lean to not tapping him, if I’m Pavin.

More proof for that concern. The former couple actually signed the divorce agreement more than a month ago. And, his golf has gotten no better since then.

Couple other thoughts. How did they get away with officially filing in Panama City, hundreds of miles away from Jupiter, Fla.? Will anybody leak any part of the sealed terms? Apart from concern for the kids, will being officially divorced re-release the inner Tiger's hankering for some Perkins pancakes?

Speaking of, at least one ESPN columnist says he's not holding his breath over either Tiger passing Jack or his holding on to his newfound morality.

La Russa to Wrigley?

Ryne Sandberg is the inside favorite to "permanently" replace Lou Pinella as Chicago Cubs manager next year. But, Jeff Passan notes that, down I-55, in Cardinal red, there's a BIG A-list manager whose contract expires at the end of this year.

Fans of both teams would crap in their respective colors if Passan's rhetorical question actually happened.

That said, it's a good article for looking at all the potential managerial changes, and candidates.

Crap, Douthat is channeling George Will

Ross Douthat has now, to the best of my recollection, written his first baseball column. Like fellow quasi-intellectual conservative George Will, I doubt Douthat knows any more about the National Pastime than he does about politics, the American social economy, etc.

The cheap juxtaposition of the just-deceased Bobby Thomson and the just-indicted Roger Clemens, complete with the injunction at the end that maybe we should just forgive Clemens, shows that Douthat has even less idea of the poetry of baseball than Will does, in fact.

Forgive Clemens? First, Mr. Douthat, as a good Catholic, you know that Roger the Dodger has to want forgiveness. Second, shouldn't he, even if he repents, do some penance, maybe an indulgence or two? Third, by putting Thomson's name in the middle of a column about the history of cheating in baseball (Giants' alleged 1951 signal-spying aside), you've engaged in at least the spirit of borderline libelousness. Fourth, such tawdry baseball writing is unforgivable. At least you didn't drag Roy Hobbs into this muck.

Further note to Douthat: If you wanted to know how to write a baseball column, including Thomson, all you had to do was peek over Bob Herbert's shoulder and learn from him.

How Arctic warming's effects are spilling elsewhere

Jet stream changes. Icebergs moving further south, too. That's all part of the fallout of global-warming induced changes in the Arctic. Among other things, as more big icebergs break off Greenland, they're going to get pushed deeper into the Atlantic by new wind patterns.

And, yet, the U.S. fiddles while Baffin Island roasts.

Canadian Thomas Homer-Dixon notes:
(W)e’ll almost certainly need some kind of devastating climate shock to get effective climate policy. That’s the key lesson of the recent financial crisis: when powerful special interests have convinced much of the public that what they’re doing isn’t dangerous, only a disaster that discredits those interests will provide an opportunity.

The shock?

Maybe, if a couple of North Atlantic offshore oil platforms get damaged by a big-enough Greenland berg, Big Oil will tell the GOP to wise up, but not likely

August 22, 2010

Faux News hearts terrorists!

What other answer could there be for all of this, as Frank Rich expostulates:

What does Faux News accept $3 billion with a B from the obviously terrorism-supporting Saudi Arabia? C'mon, TPers, answer me about your top propaganda outlet? And, why is it undercutting Gen. Petraus' counterinsurgency work in A-stan? C'mon, TPers, answer me!