SocraticGadfly: 11/21/10 - 11/28/10

November 27, 2010

U.S. on hook for getting punked by fake Taliban

Only thing is, los Yanquis are trying to pass the buck.

Apparently, peace talks with the alleged Taliban leader exposed as an imposter last week were approved by then-U.S. commander Stanley McChrystal.

And, per the Guardian, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's attempts to blame the British for this is U.S.-originated spin.
McChrystal asked MI6 to develop the contacts, rather than going to the CIA, which was not empowered by the necessary White House directive to enter into direct talks with Taliban officials. The absence of such a "presidential finding" is seen by many diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic as an obstacle to progress towards a political settlement.

Shock me. Shock me more if Dugout Dave Petraeus isn't behind the spin of blaming the British. The fact that Stan the Former Man used MI6 rather than CIA is the technicality wedge for Dugout Dave or whomever to claim this was a British operation.

Meanwhile, here's why we shouldn't be surprised we got punked:
British intelligence is conducting an inquiry into the episode, in part to uncover the motive. One theory is that it was an exercise in kite-flying by the Taliban, to discover what Kabul and the British were offering, without risking a senior figure in the movement. Taliban leaders have been wary about attending meetings with would-be mediators, fearing they are on a Nato hit-list, known as the Joint Priority Effects List. A Nato source said: "If you look at it from their point of view, as soon as they turn up for a meeting, they give us an eight-digit map reference of where they are. This, on the other hand, is no risk."

Of course, Stan the Former Man and Dugout Dave were also too dumb to think the Taliban might actually be worried about a set-up.

November 24, 2010

The NYT even lies about Thanksgiving

James Prosek, an op-ed guest columnist, furthers the myths of Squanto by saying he taught the Pilgrims how to catch eels.
AS the story goes, Squanto — a Patuxet Indian who had learned English — took pity on the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony who had managed to survive that first brutal winter, and showed them how to plant corn, putting a dead fish in each hole where a seed was planted. But before that, before the ground had even fully thawed, he taught them a perhaps more valuable skill: how to catch a fatty, nutritious fish that would sustain them in the worst of winters.

Bullshit. And, Prosek, whose tagline notes that he's an author of a book about eels, shouldn't sacrifice the truth to hoary myths.

Wikipedia notes eels are eaten all over northern Europe. In fact, since Prosek uses the myth of Squanto to segue into eels being endangered, as well as a valued food fish, let's add, from Wiki, that their food value is why some northern European species are among the endangered ones.

More proof that Ye Olde Pilgrims needed little to no help from Tisquantum, aka Squanto, to be eelers? "Eel" comes from the Old English "ael."

Unfortunately, the columns on the NYT, at least guest columns, as opposed to news stories, doesn't allow for on-page commentary to call Prosek on his bullshit.

Tom DeLay prepares for ''Dancing with the Inmates"

Former Dancing with the Stars "star" (obviously not as wingnut-beloved as grizzly cub Bristol Palin) and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is now, officially, a convicted felon for money-laundering donations from corporations to state candidates in violation of Texas law.

First, DeLay will NOT go quietly. Nor repentantly. Not even pseudo-repentantly. Expect no Bob Ney or Jack Abramoff here. No, the Hammer will stay the Hammer.

The man who, in pot-calling-kettle mode, accused then-Travis County DA Ronnie Earle of a political vendetta won't change.

Poetic justice would be to send him to a privately operated prison of the type his GOP buddies favor, like GEO Group (the former Whackyournuts) or CCA. Doorknob knows there's enough of them.

Even more poetic justice would be for the one-time pest exterminator to literally get a dose of his own medicine.

Polar bears would lose competition with grizz

As melting ice pushes them deeper onshore, and forces them into more of a grizzly-type diet, facial structure studies show they won't be as efficient at eating vegetable matter as grizz.

Of course, the story is missing one thing - the interbreedability of the two subspecies. (No, biologists haven't made that reclassification, but, they can interbreed, and their geographic isolation is being dimished, so, aren't they?

Idaho dairy farmers want socialism!

Beyond current dairy price supports, these rock-ribbed Republicans want guaranteed profit margins, regardless of herd size:
Some of the changes include shutting down the Dairy Product Price Support Program and the Milk Income Loss Contract, or MILC, in the next Farm Bill. Both programs have funneled billions of dollars into the coffers of struggling dairies, but the federation argues that it has been largely ineffective.
MILC makes payments to dairymen when prices fall, but benefits are capped after the first 3 million gallons of milk produced, the annual output of perhaps 200 cows.

The average herd size in south-central Idaho in 2008 was more than 1,100 cows, according to the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.

“These prices are not relevant to farmers in 2010,”said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, “and it only works when producers sell to the government and get the product off the market.”

The federation also proposes to establish a new program called the Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program, which would support producer margins — unlike current federal programs that support prices. The program would act as form of insurance which pays producers based on the price per hundredweight of milk, minus the cost of feed needed to produce the milk.

What bullshit, both literal and figurative.

And, these aren't even new tea-party based Congresscritters, whom you expect to be hypocritical on things like congressional perks.

No, these are "rugged individualualist" libertarian Westerners, whom you expect to be hypocritical on things like government handouts. Nonetheless, the ramped-up level of hypocrisy is a bit surprising.

But, to be honest, if there are any "family" dairy farmers still in Idaho, they're not behind this ... this is all "big boys." It's clear from the push to remove caps on herd size and supports, and the out-of-state backing for this.

I'm sure Idaho potato farmers are next in line. Rock-ribbed-conservative Mormons looking for a government handout.

November 23, 2010

US gets punked by 'fake Taliban'

If anything summararizes why the hell we need out of A-stan, this is it.

The big question is, who's behind the punk job, of course.

Is it:

Door No. 1, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, reaching new levels of kleptomania?

Door No. 2, Pakistan's ISI, reaching new levels of monkey-wrenching U.S. efforts?

or ...

Door No. 3, the Taliban, stringing us and Karzai both along, while perhaps getting ISI backing on this project?

Great argument against airport body scanners

Intelligent readers know, as this NYT mini-column notes, that Israel doesn't use them.

The mini-column, though, is by an Israeli security consultant. Here's more:
The current security system in which everyone is a suspect is bound to be ineffective and burdensome. No system can perform efficiently when one is looking for a needle in a haystack by checking each straw individually.

That about sums up what's wrong.

I hope that enough Americans participate in the scan opt-out Wednesday to make our airports a big clusterfuck.

November 21, 2010

Is Michael Shermer a racialist?

Years ago, the editor of Skeptic magazine had made it clear through his blogging that he was a thoroughgoing, and thoroughly nonskeptical, economic libertarian when it came to matters of government regulation, economics, economics and allegedly rational human behavior, etc.

So, I stopped reading Skepticblog.

Well, recently, out of boredom, an expansion again of my skeptical horizons and other things, I started reading again. And, there is a lot of good stuff.

But, Shermer's at it again, with a hugely unskeptical lovefest for Bjorn Lomborg's newbook and movie.

The main thrust of the blog post is bad enough.

But, here's what caught my eye:
My own Senior Editor, Frank Miele, who is an expert on evolutionary biology and biodiversity (and is one of the fastest and most facile researchers I’ve ever known), challenged Lomborg on several of the chapters in his book, and we had a lively and successful debate.

That would be the same Frank Miele who is coauthor of the book "Race," about which I blogged when it came out as being "Bell Curve light."

A few comments from that blog post:
Pages 9-10 have a laughably racist “genetic” rather than sociological assumption of evidence for various types of athletic prowess. (I await every new world-class African swimmer or hockey player to refute "athetics of the gaps" thoughts like this.)

More seriously, here's a sociological counterexample. Chinese children, and adults, are known from research to have an above-average percentage of musical perfect pitch. Genes?

And, the piece de resistance on page 10 — the “mean sub-Saharan African IQ of 70.” All together, now, can we say Bell Curve? (See below.)

Add to this the fact that Miele and his co-author think blacks are "stuck with being stupid:
239: “No one has demonstrated a method of compensatory education that produces relatively permanent increases in mental ability, as opposed to learning how to answer specific test items correctly.”

Five years ago, Miele held the same position vis-a-vis Shermer that he does today: Senior editor at Skeptic magazine.

"Race" was never questioned, let alone dismantled, in that magazine's pages.

Since Miele is clearly a racialist (and his racialist co-author of "Race," Vincent Sarich, is on Skeptic's editorial board to boot), and maybe even a full-blown racist for all I know, how can we assume any different of Shermer?

Update, Dec. 20, 2010: Looks like Shermer, Miele and Sarich need to do some reading about group intelligence, too.

NYT's Linda Greenhouse shows herself a travesty

Another refutation of the "liberal" NYT myth here.

But, an informal proof of how much the Peter Principle works at major news organizations.

In a special set of mini-columns on the 10th anniversary of Bush v. Gore, columnist and former SCOTUS reporter Linda Greenhouse says this of Bush v. Gore:
I’m often asked for my thoughts on Bush v. Gore, and liberal audiences are often disappointed when I describe the decision not as a travesty or tragedy, but as a bad hair day. By this, I mean that it was just something that happened, a weird gust of wind that blew through the court

Bush v. Gore was "just something that happened"? The "Brooks Brothers mob"? The armada of lawyers, led by James Baker? That all was "just something that happened"?

Of course, earlier on in her comments, Greenhouse shows how idiotic she was back then:
I assured my editors that the court’s conservative majority believed too deeply in federalism ever to entertain a challenge to how Florida was counting the votes.

Right. Sure. The court wasn't quite as activist then as now, because it wasn't as far right. But, Nino Scalia, above all, already showed plenty of activism more than a decade ago.

Here's more the truth, from Larry Tribe:
I was then stunned when questions from the bench to my co-counsel David Boies, who argued the second and ultimate case, hinted that the court might make permanent its earlier decision to stop the recount temporarily.

But not even those hints prepared me for the 5-4 late-night decision in which the court announced that equal protection demanded a more uniform approach to counting the ballots — only to add that, having itself run out the clock, it sadly had no choice but to end all the counting that very night (Catch-22!).

But, nooooo .... this all was "just something that happened." At least the NYT op-ed page, overall, isn't quite as bad as the WaPost. Certainly not on house editorials.

Palin following in Shrub Bush's footsteps

Frank Rich rightly warns both Democratic leaders and GOP establishment insiders not to write off Palin:
With Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity on her side, Palin hardly needs the grandees of the so-called Republican establishment. They know it and flail at her constantly. Politico reported just before Election Day that unnamed “party elders” were nearly united in wanting to stop her, out of fear that she’d win the nomination and then be crushed by Obama. Their complaints are seconded daily by Bush White House alumni like Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, and Mark McKinnon, who said recently that Palin’s “stock is falling and pretty rapidly now” and that “if she’s smart, she does not run.”

This is either denial or wishful thinking. The same criticisms that the Bushies fling at Palin were those once aimed at Bush: a slender résumé, a lack of intellectual curiosity and foreign travel, a lazy inclination to favor from-the-gut improvisation over cracking the briefing books. These spitballs are no more likely to derail Palin within the G.O.P. than they did him.

And, like Bush, if we're not careful, the country would again suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations

That said, it is with Obama, too - including the soft bigotry of his being "articulate" because, to many white Volvo liberals, he didn't sound like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

Easy for Obama to talk about TSA screens

Hey Preznit Terror Fighter -

Maybe someday after you're out of office, you'll have to fly commercial yourself and your "package" will get a full inspection. Until then, don't tell us how "frustrating" TSA full-body electro-screens, or full-body human gropes are.
"One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us,” Obama said.

Just another in a series of lies and half-truths from another Dem afraid to be "soft" on some actual or made-up "war."