SocraticGadfly: 3/6/11 - 3/13/11

March 12, 2011

Obama, health care, Cheney, energy

Or, let's call this post: "Let's make a government transparency deal."

President Obama politely told the Congressional GOP to fuck off when it asked for records from White House staffers' meetings with various interest groups, including drug companies and hospitals, in the run-up to crafting Obamacare.

Yes, Obama is a hypocrite, after saying health care overhaul issues would be discussed in public.

But, this is exactly what Vice President Dick Cheney did with his secret energy task force, and that's exactly the same response he gave to Congressional Democrats.

So, let's not have either "lamestream" political party posturing; let's not have their partisans posturing, either. Call this a schadenfreude alert for both parties.

Tongue-in-cheek of the subhead aside, I'd love a political deal where all of Obama's wheeling-dealings were released AND all of Cheney's. But, as a matter of political reality, this not be done until after November 2012.

Albert Pujols - greedy and un-Christian?

You knew, given how publicly St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, that a story about whether he might be exhibiting un-Christian greed would come up, complete with I Timothy 6:10 quote.

Of course, none of the people worried about this issue have asked Bill DeWitt or John Mozeliak about their faith, or their greed level.

Besides, per "success gospel" Christianity, the more bucks Phat Albert rakes, the more that indicates he's blessed by God, right?

Beyond that, though, petards? Conundrums?

Adam Wainwright - long-term arm concerns?

In an article about Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, Tom Verducci lists Adam Wainwright among a number of pitchers with a similar pitching mechanics "glitch" to Strasburg:
I then gave (Nationals GM Mike) Rizzo a lengthy list of pitchers with the same mechanical glitch as Strasburg and what happened to them: Kerry Wood (Tommy John), B.J. Ryan (Tommy John), Joel Zumaya (fractured elbow), Jeremy Bonderman (shoulder), Shaun Marcum (Tommy John), Anthony Reyes (Tommy John), Jake Peavy (torn back muscle), Jordan Zimmermann (Tommy John), and, most recently, Adam Wainwright (Tommy John).
That's not such good news to read.

None of them -- at least those with enough of a post-surgery history -- were ever quite the same pitchers again. Smoltz might come closest, but he had his surgery at age 33 and, because a switch to closing was considered to keep him healthier, pitched only three more seasons as a full-time starter.

Rizzo mentioned that I could probably find another subset of pitchers who threw in a similar manner and have not been hurt. I admit my list is anecdotal and not meant to be comprehensive. But, now that Wainwright has gone down, it's very hard to come up with anybody who throws that way and is a beacon of durability.
How much are the Cards thinking about that? I have not previously heard Wainwright get much criticism for his mechanics. But, if this is a concern inside the organization, it has to affect Albert Pujols talks and more.

March 11, 2011

Much of the Sacramento Delta could be underwater

This is a great, short post from High Country News, and very timely in the wake (no pun intended) of the tsunami from Japan.

By the end of this century, much of the Sacramento River Delta could indeed be underwater. So could much of Olympia and Tacoma, Wash.

That map doesn't show the effects of a tsunami; that's just projected global-warming related sea level rise.

March 10, 2011

Tiger's latest excuse - single daddyhood

Tiger Woods will only be "back" when he stops spinning out lame-o excuses for why he's struggling on the golf course right now.

Not that I believe in 12-step recovery program philosophy in general, but Tiger probably does need to do some "admitting" of his degree of current suckitude, first, before he comes back.

Instead, we keep getting these "nice" excuses. The latest? Tiger says "I'm a single dad."

Well, Tiger, you were a dad before you got divorced. And, apparently, spent little more time with your kids then than you did with then-wife Erin.

So, now, as part of your makeover, you're trying to be a model single parent? Or, pretending to be one to keep up appearances vis-a-vis Erin? Spare us.

Riley will NOT fire Spolestra

Fire Erik Spoelstra? As in Sp-Olestra, the NBA fat-free coaching substitute that passes through the minds of his players, undigested?

While Jason Whitlock has a nice idea, Pat Riley won't do it this year. He'd be unlikely to get Larry Brown to take over, and, coming in himself probably wouldn't work as well as in 2006. Jason, it's the Riley legacy!

Riles knew that he could kick aside the GumbyMan, Stan Van Gundy, in 2006, and take over. He did that earlier in the season, first of all, and, in a team with just two "top bananas," not two plus a semi-third.

It's clear that James and Wade are less on the same page than Shaq and Wade were five years ago, and, too late to get them on the same page this year.

And, frankly, I think Larry Brown wouldn't take this one on.

Don't be so smug on jobs, Rick Perry

New research shows that, especially when compared with Texas, California does NOT have an inherently anti-business mindset, economy or regulatory overburden. Also, to the degree Tejas has had economic growth, it's primarily due to two things: population growth and targeting low-wage jobs for job growth.

Throw out the housing bubble in California, which in fair part has to do with a population at least half as large as Texas' on a smaller patch of land, and in fair part has to do with (earthquakes aside) that land being more scenic and desirable than any in Texas, and we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

March 09, 2011

Goodbye, Dalai

The Dalai Lama has announced he will no longer be the political leader of Tibet in exile.

With an elected exilic parliament in place, he appears ready to fulfill his desire to be just a monk, in essence.

Was Thomas Kuhn a relativist? A postmodernist?

Part 4 of Errol Morris' series of long columns about his intellectual relationship with the philosopher of science is the best yet.

He indicates Kuhn seems to be strongly influenced by the later Wittgenstein, but that he goes beyond even that:
Why stop at historical relativism? Why not imagine each and every person in a different island universe? And indeed, Kuhn at least in one instance seems to embrace that possibility. In one particularly bizarre passage in “The Road Since Structure,” he suggests that his critics are writing about two different Thomas Kuhns – Kuhn No. 1 and Kuhn No. 2. ...

To me Kuhn’s claim – that there are two Thomas Kuhns plus two books by the same name and author – suggests that there may be no coherent reading of Kuhn’s philosophy.
Weird indeed.

Given the ashtray incident and other things, I think we have to seriously look at treating Kuhn as a semi-guru, and a pre-postmodernist.

After all, when his "paradigm shift" idea went big in New Age circles, Kuhn had chances to object, and didn't.

And, along with this analysis, we have stop treating him so seriously in general.

Anyway, click the link up top, and read the three previous essays. They're great.

'Peak Coffee'? Yikes - if true

The whole coffee-growing world may not be facing the problems of Columbia and elsewhere in Latin America, where it seems the heat of global warming and shifting rainfall of climate change are hitting coffee yields, but that's enough coffee-growing area to perhaps talk about "Peak Coffee."

Or is it?

A panel of commentators weighs in at the NYT.

It seems coffee's sensitivity as a plant is half the problem. Per the main story:
“Half a degree can make a big difference for coffee — it is adapted to a very specific zone,” said Néstor Riaño, a specialist in agroclimatology for Cenicafé. “If temperature rises even a bit, the growth is affected, and the plagues and diseases rise.”
So, even without global warming, shorter-term weather changes will produce problems.

But, it seems boom-bust issues are also a problem.

The "false equivalence card" on Wisconsin

I thought Alex Leonard at Salon was better than this. But, no, both parties get blamed equally for raising partisan temperatures. If only Dems had enough gonads to make that true.

Let's connect the food-oil dots

First, the idea of daily energy calorie labeling?
I like the idea of putting an oil needed to produce label on food, plastic and anything else necessary. After all, as far as carbon emissions content, it's already available in Europe.

Of course, that's just one more reason a lot of American conservatives would oppose such an idea.

But, could it work? Well, early evidence indicates that it works with stuff like sodium and saturated fats.

That said, it would have to be an average of American mass-ag vs. American sustainable/craftsman farms. This wouldn't work on a farm-by-farm basis. And, it would take regulating.

Or, it could be done with the "carrot" of farm bill subsidies.

A great idea would be to tie subsidies to the petroleum-use-reducing sustainability of an individual farm, certified on an annual basis.

And, speaking of that sustainability issue, maybe it's time to be rethinking organic farming's production level. Maybe semi-organic, at least, can actually do better than we've been told.

Reshuffle the NL Central again?

I had dropped the St. Louis Cardinals down from No. 1 in my estimation to win the NL Central this year with the loss of Adam Wainwright. At that point, I had put the Reds with a slight edge over the Cardinals, with the Brewers a very close third if not even.

Now, although he won't be gone for the season, the cracked rib injury sustained by Zach Greinke, though not a season-ender, does put Milwaukee back a bit.

Otherwise, amongst Cardinals and injuries, Chris Carpenter's hammy doesn't seem too serious, and David Freese had a solid opening to spring training.

So, while still giving the Reds a slight nod at this early point, I'll put a bit more light between the Cards and Brewers.

Dear HuffPuff: I agree with the Greek Goddess

"Go on strike," indeed, HuffPuffers.

Now, I do agree that Arianna Huffington is a pseudoliberal, but I'll say it again -- you can always start your own blog if you want to keep vanity blogging, HuffPuffers. Or, if you want to be part of a "network," go apply to one of the Examiner ads on Monster and CareerBuilder. You might make a few pennies a month.

First, note that many of you have been writing promotional content, not editorial content. In other words, SEO spam.

Second, take a look in the mirror at your vanity quotient. If you really believe in it that much, start your own blog and put a PayPal tip jar on it.

More environmental low marks for Obama

We could absolve higher-ups in Team Obama of the original push by U.S. Fish & Wildlife to remove grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone from Endangered Species Act preservation.

But, after USFW lost that case, to bring it up on appeal, when the griz are listed as threatened again, and nothing else has changed in the plan? Where's Kenny Boy Salazar?

That's even as Obama and Washington state's Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are ready to keep playing politics with salmon.

March 07, 2011

If Stanley Fish is for it, I'm agin it

The (self-proclaimed?) dean of American pomo philosophers says the Supreme Court got Westboro wrong. For a philosopher of language in America to hold that shows just how shallow he can be.

On language in general, perhaps Fish should read an Errol Morris column.

Another inequality of the War on Drugs

If you or I accumulated $2 million in drug sale assets and were convicted, we'd get life in jail.

If you're a former DA, and embezzle from asset seizure funds of the same amount, you get a slap on the wrist.

Magic in secular as well as religious forms

Midway into a long article about the decline of empires in general, and the likely declining of America's in particular, Chris Hedges talks about the belief by many evangelical Christians, and how it's a form of magical escapism, at least today.

But he then goes on to note:
The faith that science and technology, which are morally neutral and serve human ambitions, will make the world whole again is no less delusional. We offer up our magical thinking in secular as well as religious form.
Indeed, indeed. Click the "salvific technologism" tag, and you'll see I have written a lot about this.
We think we have somehow escaped from the foibles of the past. We are certain that we are wiser and greater than those who went before us. We trust naively in the inevitability of our own salvation.
That's why an Obama won't do more on global warming.

Robert Gates, moral coward

Tom Engelhardt has a great story on the Secretary of Defense's farewell tour, and what it omits: a plan for leaving Afghanistan.

Rather than dipping into the national oil reserve

President Obama and his Chief of Staff, Bill "The Other" Dailey, are proposing opening the national oil reserve to deal with the recent crude oil and gasoline price spikes.

I have an even better idea. Since we know that speculators were part of the run-up to the $147 price in 2008, how about some legislative action?

But, oh, no, those speculators give too much money to neolib Democrats like Obama.

March 06, 2011

Wisconsin Dems cave

If this WSJ story is correct, "cave" is the only word to be used for the 14 Democrats of the Wisconsin state senate.

The 14 think that bill Gov. Scott Walker wants to pass, ending collective bargaining for state unionized employees, will "taint" him and the rest of the state GOP.

"Taint"? As if far-right GOPers are worried about that.

Once again, Democrats lack both clues and gonads at the same time.

On the clueless front, here's Dem. state Sen. Miller:
He said he thinks recent polls showing voter discontent with Mr. Walker over limits on bargaining rights have been "disastrous" for the governor and Republicans and give Democrats more leverage to seek changes in a broader two-year budget bill Mr. Walker proposed Tuesday.
Really? Let's hear from the other side of the aisle.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Sunday night that the "budget repair" bill can't be amended at this point. But it's possible that over the next few weeks adjustments could be made to Mr. Walker's broader budget plan, he said.
I'm sure any such adjustments will be minor and cosmetic.

Beyond that, what if they're wrong? Looking at this in a zero-sum way, Walker wins because Dems caved. That's going to be the story line.

Why wouldn't it? In another story, the Wisconsin 14 admitted negotiations had failed, and apparently, they weren't ready to play hardball beyond that, depsite poll numbers trending their way.

Of course, Walker said polls didn't sway him. (Unless funded by the Koch brothers, of course!):
"If I governed by polls I'd still be in the state Assembly," Mr. Walker said on Friday. "I won reelection twice as county executive in an area of the state that went two-thirds for President Obama by identifying a problem, telling people how I was going to deal with it, and then moving forward with the solution."
Again, Walker was ready to play this as a zero-sum game, and so he won.

And, it's not just the collective bargaining bill. It's the zero-sum, winner-takes-all tactics in general. Don't the Wisconsin 14 read e-mails or whatever from their constituents, talking about stuff like this?

I understand you have a senator who is seven months pregnant. That said, to be honest, even if it sounds a bit cold, how that affected your calculations should have been discussed in advance of the walkout. If you had followed the details of the similar situation in Texas of several years ago, you knew that you could be out of state for quite some time.

And, speaking more of tactics ... what if union works just stay home from the polls more, figuring Wisconsin Democrats are fair-weather friends?

As for the claims of Miller that the Wisconsin 14 haven't announced a "date certain" for return, that's just window dressing. You've announced you're throwing in the towel and that's the bottom line.

Does Wisconsin have much of a Green party?


Update: First, this TPM story touted as proof the WSJ story is wrong? The first two grafs are spin, nothing more. There's no "denial" there.

Second, state Sen. Chris Larsen's Facebook comment, and the Politico storyreferencing it? Two specific additional points.

1. While the WSJ news department, on political news, isn't as bad or close to it as its op-ed page, nonetheless, it isn't sterling. If Miller in particular, or the Wisconsin 14 in general, had nothing new to say, then why tell that to the WSJ?
2. If you really, really aren't coming back until Walker pulls the bill and resubmits it without the collective bargaining issue, why not draw a line in the sand? If one of the quasi-sympathetic Republicans in the state senate will be sympathetic enough to walk out with you, you can do that for sure.

Would you put a FB-based comment system on your blog?

Well, Facebook has one coming out, and it would surely be tempting for corporations, such who'd like to target advertising onto Facebook pages, get more information about commenters than they do now, and so forth — i.e., old and new media companies.

From the individual blogging side?

Yeah, it would be tempting to put a Facebook-driven commenting system on my blog for exactly the reason the story mentioned — exposing my blog to friends of commenters who have FB accounts. But, it's anti-tempting for exactly the reason the story mentioned — expanding the tentacles of Facebook.

George Will basts 4-5 on 2012 GOP field

George Will is spot-on when he says Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich probably can't gain enough public trust to run a lemonade stand, let alone the White House.

As for five five relatively sensible GOP candidates? I agree on Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. But, after numerous gaffes already by the Mouth of Mississippi, if Will thinks Haley Barbour is a viable candidate, his picker's still a bit broken.