SocraticGadfly: 2/27/11 - 3/6/11

March 05, 2011

Another reason law is less desireable

There's been a spate of stories in the last year or so about how more and more law school graduates are struggling to find jobs.

The recession usually gets the blame.

Maybe it's time to "blame" technology instead; new software is replacing many lawyers.

Computers allow much "discovery" work in civil cases to be done electronically, and without drudgery complaint:
“(E)-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time (of lawyers) for a fraction of the cost. In January, for example, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.
Wow. And, that was before Watson won at Jeopardy!

And, not to get too Luddite, but, while some people talk about technology creating new jobs, what kind of jobs are they?
“There is no reason to think that technology creates unemployment,” MIT Professor David H. Autor said. “Over the long run we find things for people to do. The harder question is, does changing technology always lead to better jobs? The answer is no.”
And, anticipating Watson II:
“The economic impact will be huge,” said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.”
There's even supposedly software that can recognize the "tone" of an e-mail. If that improves, a la Watson II type computers, customer service reps are probably also in danger of losing more jobs.

Specific to law, jobs can also be outsourced. India has plenty of good English speakers who have grown up in the Anglo half of Anglo-American legal traditions.

The five-year plan for getting greener

Like most five-year plans, it's in a communist country, namely, China.

But, it makes blunt economic sense even without the environmental angle, for China to do this.

For example, China is about to pass the U.S. on the amount of oil it imports. So, even after Libya settles down, no matter who "wins," worldwide demand will keep pushing.

Of course, part of the plan is bass-ackwards environmentally. Pushing for more electric cars may control oil imports a bit, but, with a coal-heavy electric power grid, it will likely increase air pollution, if anything.

That said, this is the first time China has set consumption goals, not just efficiency goals, limited as they may be.

Boboes, fictionalized to the second power

I've always thought David Brooks wrote fiction whenever he talked about his stereotypical suburban "boboes." (And, if you Google, there's websites that document instances of lying about and making up details of bobo life.)

Never did I think he would go novelistic on the world, though. But, given the stupidity, insularity, conventionality and timidity of the New York publishing world, I shouldn't be surprised that moment has happened.

His new Pop Ev Psych through bobo consciousness book is excerpted here.

And, really reviewed here, far more snarkily than even I might do, courtesy Pharyngula!

Die, bobo, die!

March 04, 2011

Why is Ryno in the HOF and Sweet Lou isn't?

For several years, while not embracing Ryne Sandberg as a Hall of Fame member, I haven't argued he should be removed.

That said, why isn't Lou Whitaker there with him?

If you look at their stats, they're the same player.

(Actually, Sweet Lou's OPS+, oWAR and dWAR are all slightly higher.)

So, how is Whitaker not only not in the HOF, but how did he only get 2.9 percent of writers' votes his first year, and thereby get forcibly dropped from the ballot for the future?

A travesty indeed.

And, given that Whitaker retired one year after Sandberg's second and final retirement, it's not like writers couldn't directly compare them.

The only things where Sandberg has an edge is modestly superior home run power and many more stolen bases.

That said, per the ESPN link, Ryno did have a "peak" that Sweet Lou didn't:
One could argue that Sandberg's best was better than Whitaker's best, and that's probably true. Whitaker was never QUITE as good as Sandberg was in '83, and didn't have four consecutive seasons that can quite match Ryno's '89-'92. But he also didn't suffer the valleys Sandberg did in the mid-'80s, and I'd argue that "consistently good and sometimes great" can be just as valuable as "inconsistent but sometimes slightly greater."
But, as the story notes, it can also be argued Ryno had less Gold Glove competition in the NL than Sweet Lou did in the AL.

Friday Macho scatblogging

To be precise, this is Macho B scatblogging, as in the Arizona jaguar well-known to many environmentalists.

A federal judge has upheld the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's right to snare the jaguar, but did NOT dismiss charges against Janay Brun, the private research technician who has admitted using jaguar scat as "bait" at the site Macho B was snared.

I hope Brun doesn't get hung out to dry in court for being a whistle-blower. Or simply for not being a government employee.

Given that Emil McCain, a fellow employee of the private Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, contracted by the state and federal agencies to help with jaguar snaring, pled guilty last year on this very case, that wouldn't surprise me.

But, given the history of this case so far, and especially her history within it, Brun very likely is being hung out to dry.

That's not to mention the hypocrisy of the jaguar being listed on the Endangered Species Act, but the federal government doing nothing to actually protect it, like restricting cattle grazing on the Mogollon Rim, creating protection areas, etc.

Once again, can you smell the sweet smell of hypocrisy?

March 03, 2011

How the U.S. could intervene in Libya

The Department of Justice has never officially closed its case on the Lockerbie bombing. That includes never shelving the indictment of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, "compassionately" released to Libya by Scotland a year or so ago under major, lied-about pressure from London.

Suitable pressure on Gaddafi, with the "carrot" of a leave-the-country deal, could be put together.

Vote fraud, GOP style

Instead of "caging," "voter ID bills" and other nonsense, if the GOP was serious about vote fraud (and it's not), it would look at its own. Like Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White.

Tea Party schadenfreude, dried out and warmed up

Arizona is of course a hotbed of illegal (and general) immigrant stereotyping, along with being near the top in birtherism, and home to one of our biggest political hypocrites, John McCain. Well Schmuck Talk Express and others better find a way to get one-third more water to their area. Ditto for Orange County denialists, as California is already the most "overdrawn" state by absolute water numbers as well as percentages.

The thumbnail is here.

All the details on how climate change will affect the Southwest are here (PDF).

Nothing short of cutting ag use by nearly 50 percent AND hiking prices by that much to push non-ag conservation will really help.

Going by value, the ag answer is simple - eliminate hay growing, at least the irrigated variety. Change rice to winter wheat followed by rapid-grow summer corn. Cut back on beans, which do OK as a dryland crop anyway.

The bottom-line question about water is not whether adaptation is difficult or expensive, compared to doing nothing. Rather, it should be compared to buying several trillion dollars worth of water over the next century; adaptation is a bargain that the region cannot afford to ignore. The implication for climate policy is similar: although doing something about greenhouse gas emissions is expensive, doing nothing would cost even more. Among the benefits of global emission reduction is a savings of hundreds of billions of dollars in the future cost of water, or the avoidance of water scarcity, in the five states of the Southwest.
Part of my solution?

Let's not try to "repair" Nevada's casino-based economy. If Federal job training includes moving people out of that state, with the nation's highest per-capita residential use, do it!

Second, find a way to undercut economic development corporations that don't adequately price water as part of their recruiting pitch.

That said, the authors wrote their study while ignoring the Colorado River Compact, and admit they did that as a simplifying measure. In reality, the "project" is even more difficult than they paint.

Not all tea partiers are anti-environmental

At least not when it's their ox that's being gored, in the case of personal property. Texans resisting the proposed transcontinental pipeline for tar sands oil from Canada might provide an example of how to better "sell" environmentalism to more people.

That said, in reality? The mindset of the great majority of tea partiers will lead them to continue to have a NIMBY stance on environmental issues. If the issue is out of sight, then it's out of mind.

Cracks in the Texas GOP

State Rep. Jim Pitts wants to tap into the state's Rainy Day fund, and he has recruited Comptroller Susan Combs to help pitch the idea.

That said, Gov. Rick Perry stands opposed. As do tea partiers to whom he has pandered, tea partiers that gave the GOP its House supermajority.

But, Pitts has at least one other heavy hitter on his side. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst agrees with him.

But, as the GOP's 2012 U.S. Senate field fleshes out, will Dewhurst have tea party pressure to change his stance?

At the same time, Combs indirectly warned Pitts not to take too much.

Why not? Per the first link, she's worried about the economy still not being too hot in 2013, it seems:
Combs, though, warned lawmakers to consider how tough budget-writing is expected to be in the 2013 session.
Gov. Helmethair, I'm sure, will continue to sound like Sarah Palin on the state of the Texas economy.

EPA about to be a political sellout again

Don't be at all surprised if the EPA's final report on fracking water quality and needed regulation is more watered down than what it's supposed to regulate.

When even a Carol Browner favors giving the oil and gas industry pretty much of a pass on this issue, you know that the deal is in the bag. And, with that said, you know that serious U.S. stances on global warming by "serious insiders" aren't going to get better in the future.

So, if Al Armandirez here in Texas makes too, too much of a stuck, EPA may put him on a short leash.

The opposite of "scientism" is???

I have had no problem labeling the thought processes of people like P.Z. Myers and Sam Harris with the tag of "scientism" at times when it was clear they were trying to address nonscientific issues from a scientific point of view. Especially with Harris, allegedly a philosopher because he has a degree in the subject, it's frustrating, off-putting, undercuts the "cause" of secularism and more.

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci also has no problem pegging people like that.

So, it's a bit disconcerting when he says social science research into people's moral judgment thinking not only is not philosophy, but that it can't even lead to philosophy, in his perspective.

And, so, I ask, the opposite of scientism, in this case, is ...


His argument, in a nutshell, is in a comment of his near the end of the comment thread:
Similarly, we evolved the ability to make moral judgment, but that doesn't begin to equip us for professional-level moral reasoning ...
I saw "professional-level moral reasoning," which I inadvertently shortened to "professional moral reasoning" (though I don't think that significantly changed anything) and ... well, I cringed.

It's like Massimo wants to do data-free, research-free philosophy. And, even if (I'm not going to say "even though") he may not have meant it in an elitist way, it sure comes off that way, which is the main reason I cringed.

Reading about Willie, and Mickey ... and the Hammer

Sorry, I've not come across a Duke Snider biography.

That said, I have recently read new biographies of (from oldest to newest) Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Henry Aaron.

Overall, from oldest to newest, they descended from best to worst.

On Amazon, I gave the Mays bio five stars, the Mantle one four, and the Aaron one, "The Last Hero," three.

From: "Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend"
I feel a bit of sadness about Willie, having read this book, the same sadness I had as a 9-year-old in 1973, watching him stumble when rounding second, trying to go from first to third on a single, in the 1973 World Series, and having to crawl back to second.

Whether due more to innate personality tendencies, his own reactions to segregation in his native Alabama in general, or associated with baseball, his family of origin, or a combination of this and more, it's sad that he doesn't open up even more.

And while I, being Caucasian, am in no position to judge Willie on his activism in civil rights, and agree with him that we don't all have the same temperament, Hirsch does show how Robinson and Aaron could wish so hard for more from him and be frustrated he didn't give that. ...

But, the not opening up is itself part of Mays. Hirsch also does a good job of showing how Mays, in his own quiet way, refuted or rejected various stereotypes.

From "The Last Boy" review:
Specifically, the one major new thing in this bio — Mantle's childhood sexual abuse suffering — is exactly what (Mantle hagiographers) most object to, and what I find one of the strengths of the book. That said, because Leavy chooses NOT to write a more traditional, fully chronological biography, we don't get this information until near the end of the book. Too close to the end, in my opinion; Leavy, without a chronological style, could still have introduced it near the start of Mantle's post-playing life, rather than when the book is 90 percent done. And then, she could have built on it more, more thoroughly interweaving it with his womanizing and his alcoholism.

From "The Last Hero" review, talking about Howard Bryant's authorial style:
Third, is the "Henry" style. Howard Bryant, serious baseball fans know Aaron went by "Henry" and not "Hank." To call everybody else by last name, but throughout the whole book, call Aaron "Henry," "Henry," "Henry" became annoying. It then rose to irritating, and even a bit beyond that.

Fourth, if you're going to do that, apply it similarly to other ballplayers. Calling Dick Allen "Richie"? MAJOR faux pas.

Fifth, why is he "The Last Hero"? Yes, publishers often have the final say on book titles, but I suspect this one came from Bryant. Is it because he got the home run record without roiding? Is it because he was the last player from the "semi-pioneering" age of African-American ballplayers? We're never clearly told.

Anyway, even Bryant's bio is worth a read.

Norm Ornstein said it

"Cable news is a joke."

Ornstein was talking about Faux News' decision to "suspend" Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, now that they've formed presidential exploratory committees. (On a side note, what keeps Ornstein at AEI, anyway?)

In the same "Room for Debate," I was surprised Fred Wertheimer didn't call for reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

March 02, 2011

More HuffPuff boo-hoo

They're crying again about not getting a cut of Arianna's $350M from AOL.

Actually, one of her paid honchos has it about right. Mario Ruiz, the Senior Vice President of Media Relations at the Huffington Post, said:
"The vast majority of our bloggers understand the value of having a platform that reaches a very large audience. People blog on HuffPost for free for the same reason they go on cable TV shows every night for free – because they are passionate about their ideas, want them to be heard by the largest possible audience, and understand the value that that kind of visibility can bring."

"Our bloggers can choose to write for HuffPost – or not write for HuffPost," he continued. "They can write as often as like they like or as little as they like. It’s both wrong and offensive to insist that HuffPost is exploiting journalists."
It's vanity blogging.

And, as for the Newspaper Guild joining in the moaning? Hey your owners and mine screwed up on the Internet going on 15 years ago. Crying for HuffPuffers won't change that.

And, they irony, and more, is that this story is on a free news aggregator website. Get a fucking clue, Newspaper Guild!

Bonobos "shout it out"

It being sex, that is. Why?

For social status, as in, look who I just banged.

No, seriously. In all cases, whether gay or straight sex, if we may use human terms, the female who is lower on the "clan's" social scale is the one who whoops it up while making whoopie.

I am sure there's some legitimate evolutionary psychology finding that can be mined from this, and I'm also sure there's some Pop Ev Psych bullshit that will also be mined.

Autism genes and brain development

Tentative, quite tentative, findings indicate that of autism genes known so far (and we can't stress that enough), they play little role in brain functioning, but DO play more of a role in brain development.

That said, some of the same research indicates that what role they play in functioning is in part related to glutamate.

That said, between this and other factors showing both parents can have a genetic influence on autism, that parental age at child birth is a factor (old, decaying stem-cell genetic material) and related things, it does seem clear that we're still a long way from more in the way of answers.

Scooter Libby is nuts about Turkey

And, not in a good sense.

While I agree that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan needs some degree of eye kept on him vis-a-vis "Islamist" issues, Libby's history telling is selective. The constitutional reforms had been pushed long before Erdogan came to power. Northern Cyprus? A reaction to EU and US one-sidedness toward Greece.

What Libby doesn't like isn't that, but a once-pliant "client state" flexing its muscles, all because of a clusterfuck he supported and lied about. (Speaking of that, his end-of-column tagline has not a word about his criminal history, or his not-officially-charged-but-criminal-in-spirit history.)

March 01, 2011

Volt doesn't make a lot of sense

That's the word of Consumer Reports, which notes that the model it bought for testing, after a $5K GM markup (which eliminates federal tax breaks — way to go, company that's been on the federal dime!) costs twice as much as a Toyota Prius AND, if driven enough to have to switch to its gas motor, can actually get lower mileage.

Koch Brothers hypocrisy alert

Yes, it was nice that Charles G. Koch mentioned the military as well as entitlements in his op-ed.

But there were two magic missing words: "corporate welfare."

Hey, Charles and David, whenever you're ready to give up some oil industry tax deductions, and say so in public, THEN you can write an op-ed that I'll take with less skepticism.

As for specific handouts? Charles and David get more than oil bucks from Daddy Federal Warbucks. They include ethanol subsidies, logging road subsidies, free dairy grazing on federal land subsidies, and making deals with socialist governments. Don't forget their old man got his start with Uncle Joe Stalin!

Also, until you, looking back on the current deficits, say what you would have done differently on the financial crisis, you don't get 100 percent seriousness on the deficit. Nor do you get seriousness on military spending until you can find a quote from five years ago similar to one from today.

More on the shady dealings here of Bros. Koch here.

FiredogLake has a brilliant deconstruction of how this column explodes in Koch's face if you change the focus from the federal budget to climate change and make other changes accordingly.

February 28, 2011

Waddling with the Stars?

Kirstie Alley on "Dancing with the Stars"? Really? "Waddling with the Stars" is more

February 27, 2011

Your gas may be radioactive

No, not what you had from the beans at dinner, but what is possibly providing your electricity, maybe your heating and cooking, no joke involved.

Natural gas from shale formations, like the Marcellus in Pennsylvania, is brought out of ground using hydraulic fracking fluids that are nasty enough in their own right.

Now, it turns out, the deep subsurface water brought up with the gas and fracking fluids is more radioactive than once thought.

Problem? Yes. Much of this water gets sent to public sewage treatment plants that can't handle the radioactivity.

That said, it sounds like Pennsylvania regulators and elected officials are as much at fault as anybody. And, the AP had a story last week about how the drilling industry likes to pass out all sorts of free ducats to those elected officials.

NYT searches out -ex gubernatorial brilliance

I guess in light of the whackjobbery of Scott Walker and John Kasich in Ohio, the New York Times op-ed section felt it had to get some wisdom on state budget issues from recently retired governors.

Let's see, what four departing governors could the New York Times op-ed page turn to for insights about governance? These four:

1. Bill Richardson, derailed from an Obama Cabinet position by an ethics charge, related to shady financial deals while New Mexico governor;
2. Mark Sanford, a philanderer, and on the South Carolina state travel dime, to boot;
3. Bill Ritter Jr., a policy wonk who was OK overall but uninspiring (that said, he would have been a better choice for Interior Secretary than fellow Coloradoan Kenny Boy Salazar);
4. Phil Bredesen, an equally uninspiring Democratic wonk governor.

Seriously? Sanford over Charlie Crist? If you were going to give me a laugh, where's Pataki and Schwarzenegger?