SocraticGadfly: 3/20/11 - 3/27/11

March 26, 2011

Good observation here that Texas has three parties, except I'd rephrase it as: Democrats, conservative but not nutso Republicans and nutso Republicans.

On two financial issues, the use of the Rainy Day Fund for the next budget, and further reforming the franchise tax to generate more money for the state in general and education in particular, it's clear that Gov. Helmethair, Rick Perry, is a nutso.

It's pretty clear Speaker Joe Straus is not.

That leaves Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as the tiebreaker. Dewhurst has in general struck me as suaver, more urbane Perry but not much else.

Now, given his claim that education funding can even be increased in the new budget, without mentioning the Rainy Day Fund one way or the other, he strikes me as also being even more disingenuous than Perry. Selling state land? Outside what's in state parks, most of it's not worth a lot unless the state sells the mineral rights with it, which would be dumb squared.

Smoke and mirrors on Texas budget

I expected this a month ago, but we're starting to get concrete evidence now that the state GOP is ready to do that.

A question for Wilsonian idealists

Samantha Power is a strong Wilsonian interventionist within the Obama administration. VERY strong:

Per this story, she's apparently so powerful, and perhaps so worrisome to Team Obama's PR on interventionism, that she wasn't made available for an interview for the story, as this indicates:
Precisely what parts of the unfolding policy (in Libya) Power advocated or opposed aren't clear. She declined a request for an interview, and White House officials declined to comment on her role.
On the political fallout issue, here's her POV:
Power has long argued that politicians shy away from humanitarian intervention because they see too much domestic political risk with little payoff for saving foreign lives. ...

The prevailing political theory in the United States, Power said, is that "you don't get any extra credit for doing the right thing," that U.S. casualties for the sake of humanitarianism cost politicians power and support. "It's up to us on the outside" to change that calculus, she said.
Beyond the domestic political risk, let's take a look at a nut graf:
After the publication of "A Problem From Hell," Power said in a wide-ranging 2002 discussion with Boston interviewer Robert Birnbaum that she believes "there is a moral obligation to do something about gross human rights violations" even if they don't meet the definition of genocide.
But, to do WHAT? And, by what moral calculus do we judge what to do?

Why Bosnia but not Uganda, back in Clinton Administration days? Was it white and European vs. nonwhite and African?

Why Libya and not Yemen today? Is it oil or the lack thereof? Or, with Bahrain, the fact that we have such a military presence there already as to be semi-intimidating without further effort?

Along those lines, if any intervention is done in the name of "international stability," first thing I am going to do is check how much oil that country produces.

And, sorry, Ms. Power, but the U.S. checkbook isn't unlimited. Are you going to dun the rest of the UN every time you decide the U.S. should intervene somewhere? Are you, per a Bob Herbert, going to try to sell the American public on every price tag? Or, like Bush with his two wars, will you not only not ask Congress for declarations of war, but will you try to run every intervention "off budget"?

Remember, the French Revolution started not just because of bad harvests, but because Comte de Vergennes had bankrupted France ... by intervention, intervention in the American Revolution.

Beyond the finances, what about human lives, especially when it becomes clear that air power may make a Roman-style, if temporary, "desert" out of mini-Carthages, but, it won't quell unrest on the ground. Will you try to sell that cost to the American public?

And, again, on what utilitarian calculus? Libya's level of unrest IS just about the same as Yemen's. So, why are we there?

How great a level of civil unrest is "permitted"? Is an "Obama doctrine" forthcoming?

Obama promotes top Gitmo and Abu Ghraib psychologist

Larry James will now head a new White House task force on the well-being of the military family. Glenn Greenwald has all the details, including on how James appears to at least "let it slide" on torture at both sites, if not give a degree of active condoning, in psychological language. Greenwald's got links to protests against Wright and more.

Glenn doesn't really get into how psychiatrists, as a group, early on protested supporting military torture, torture-lite and and reverse-engineered SERE, while it took the main U.S. psychologists' group almost a decade to even come close to the same level of condemnation.

Greenwald adds that James hasn't been charged, let alone condemned, with any offense. Of course, a kick upstairs like this means he never will be. And, having read ames' self-serving book about his time at both Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, I have no doubt he's guilty of aiding and abetting torture.

That said, sadly, Greenwald still doesn't push third-party voting in posts like this, either.

You can do better, Glenn.

Jew or not a Jew?

Sounds like right-wing Israeli Jews are awfully damned close to defining members of the J Street as not being real Jews.

J Street and AIPAC, the American-Israeli Political Action Committee, "got it on" in debate in Jerusalem in front of select Israeli politicians and others.

Boy, I would have loved to been a fly on the wall at this debate. Was the term "self-hating Jew" used at all? (Even as Israel gets less democratic on controlling free expression.)

No, to Zionists in Israel, the U.S., Canada, or elsewhere, Israel is certainly not Hamas. It really isn't the Palestinian Authority, but the increasing fragmentation, intransigence, and even corruption in Israeli politics mean that it IS getting closer to being like the PA, at least.

As for moving further away from robust democracy? Two examples, or, rather, two new laws:
Two laws passed this week have been widely condemned by civil liberty groups and advocates on the left. The first is known as “the Nakba bill,” in reference to the Arabic word for “catastrophe” commonly used by Arabs to describe the birth of Israel in 1948. Arabs who are Israeli citizens often commemorate Israeli independence by noting their losses — the destruction of hundreds of villages and the exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The new law allows the Finance Ministry to remove funds from municipalities or groups if they commemorate Independence Day here as a day of mourning or reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The original bill, which produced much alarm and was altered, would have imposed prison sentences.

The second new law that has drawn criticism from the left establishes admissions committees for small communities in the Negev and Galilee, areas with large Arab populations. The new law says that communities with 400 or fewer families may set up committees to screen potential residents for whether they fit in socially. At the last minute, a rider was added barring discrimination based on race, gender or nationality, but critics contend it will still serve to keep Arabs out of Jewish communities.
Of course, only self-hating Jews or "moral equivalence" goyim would protest such laws, right?

March 25, 2011

Millions for Libyan no-fly zones, but not one cent ...

Bob Herbert's farewell column for the New York Times is here. Apparently, he's leaving now, unlike Frank Rich. Interesting. Anyway, he goes out with a bang - call it millions for Libyan no-fly zones, but not one cent for the U.S. homeland.

Ironic, indeed, since the Tripoli pirates of Marines' Hymm and "millions for defence, not one cent for tribute" fame were from ... Libya, among other places.

Feds ignore Countrywide but chase subprime small fry

So, former Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo is off the hook for floating tens of thousands of subprime mortgages, including thousands of "liar's loans."

But, TAKE OUT a liar's loan, and, as Joe Nocera details, the feds spare no effort in convicting you and sending you to the federal pokey.

That said, beyond that, the person the feds put away? They had a weak case, Nocera said.

Now, isn't that what was claimed with Nocera? With Dick Fuld of Lehman?

Oh, the final "irony? Charlie Engle "lied" (it's arguable he didn't) ... to Countrywide.

Scott Walker becomes even more lying and sneaking

Somebody acting on the Wisconsin governor's behalf officially published legislation stripping collective bargaining rights from state workers despite a court injunction.

The measure was published to the Legislature's website with a footnote that acknowledges the restraining order by a Dane County judge. But the posting says state law "requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to publish every act within 10 working days after its date of enactment." ...

The restraining order was issued against Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette. But the bill was published by the reference bureau, which was not named in the restraining order.
In other words, Walker continues to show that he thinks he's above the law.

Wisconsin voters need to push to change state law to allow recalls of officials before they've served two terms in office.

First Frank Rich, now Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert, following Frank Rich, is the second New York Times op-ed columnist in less than a month to announce they were leaving the paper.

Both columnists said they wanted to pursue new angles in journalism.

Fortunately, the Times did NOT go craptacular on Rich's replacement, naming Joe Nocera. But, Nocera, at least from what I've seen of his blogging or commentary outside of Times news stories, isn't really, well, opinionated. And, to the degree he is, he's a business columnist.

I hope the Times thinks outside the New York-DC axis, and outside the traditional bipartisan poles, for a replacement for Herbert.

The story notes that the NYT is in the middle of revamping its Op-Ed section. And, of course, it has the paywalls going up. Both are good reasons for thinking outside the box.

Herbert's farewell column is here. Apparently, he's leaving now, unlike Rich. Interesting. Anyway, he goes out with a bang - call it millions for Libya, but not one cent for the homeland.

Canadian contempt for Harper is likely to fizzle

Doorknob, I love parliamentary governments.

Including the one to the north of the U.S., in Ottawa.

The Canadian Parliament, in a historic move, has made a parliamentary finding of contempt against Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The vote also is, in essence, a no-confidence vote, triggering parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper faces Parliament.
However, Canada's economy is growing faster than the U.S.'s (whose isn't, these days?) and Harper will surely run on that.

The opposition used the maneuver to avoid voting against Harper's budget, another sign that it doesn't want to campaign on the economy, but rather Harper's personal style as prime minister.

And, how strong is that economy? Per Bloomberg's story on the vote, the Canadian dollar is trading at parity with the U.S. greenback.

Canada is in its seventh year of minority government, namely because the opposition parties can't get their collective acts together.

And, early on, I'll give 50-50 odds that Harper survives again, whether with a minority or not. All he has to do is gain seats, even if not a majority, and watch the tripartate opposition of Liberals, Bloc Quebecois, and New Democratic Party flail away at each other.

This is the same opposition that had opportunities to hold formal no-confidence votes more than a year ago and always shied away from that, after all.

And, the gun-shy attitude was lead by current Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who didn't sound incredibly inspiring in discussing opposition issues after the vote. The NDP's Layton is ill and I don't know how well other top NDP folks can carry that party's banner should he be forced to stand down for most of the campaign.

As for Harper? For American readers, I liken him to a cross between Reagan and Bush II. He has W's sometimes "challenged," often blunt straight-talking political attitude, but a bit of Reaganesque Teflon. Like both, he's lucky in his opponents, so far at least.

The background of Obama's "competitiveness guru"

President Obama made waves a month or so ago when he signed up GE CEO Jeff Immelt to head his outsider-based business competitiveness council.

Well, the type of "business competitiveness" Jeff Immelt's GE favors is paying little to no income tax, year after year.

In essence, GE's financial shell games are government-legalized money laundering. So, we should really wonder just how much Obama is committed to financial reform, if this is a prime example of business competitiveness.

And, let's not even call Obama "neoliberal" anymore.

The dangers of our Libya involvement

First, as I have noted before, there always were mliitary-related issues, such as mission creep, command and control, etc. And, those issues are raising their head right now, as allies continue to disagree on what the final goal of our work in Libya should be. Air power alone won't depose Gadhafi, unless ramped up to a point to offend Turkey and the Arab League, which really aren't on board with deposing him anyway.

For example, France has extended diplomatic recognition to the rebels. So, it's definitely going to have different strategy and aims.

As for that, those rebels, watch out what you ask for.

Both the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal (h/t Salon) point out that the opposition to Gadhafi is not fully organized, but to the degree it IS organized, contains known Islamists, some of them of the same stripe that fought U.S. forces in Iraq.

Beyond Islamism, there's tribalism and other matters that reflect on the lack of organization, and lack of true national representation, in the Gadhafi opposition. More on that from McClatchy. That, in turn, means this current group could then devolve into civil war itself if it deposes Gadhafi.

And, Massimo Pigliucci, that's another reason you and other Wilsonian interventionists are wrong, and short-sighted to boot.

Why do secularists make "just war" arguments?

For example, take Massimo Pigliucci's argument for bombing Libya. It's a "just war" argument.

I raise this for several reasons.

First, most notably, the idea of "just war" arose from Christian dogmatic theology, namely starting with St. Augustine. From Thomas Aquinas, and onward, it got wrung through a sophistic wringer, and not just by Catholics, once the Protestant Reformation arrived.

Now, could one argue for something similar to a "just war" from a secularist point of view and with secularist bolstering?

One could try, I'll certainly concede, using tools such as evolutionary psychology. And please, only the real thing, not Pop Ev Psych.

But, a philosopher like Pigliucci ought to know that the idea of "justice" is philosophically iffy on utilitarian and other grounds.

First, can we even talk about "justice" in the abstract, whether retributive or distributive?

With Walter Kaufmann, I say no. I specifically refer to his hugely thought-provoking book "Without Guilt and Justice," which pretty thoroughly eviscerates John Rawls like an eight-inch herring.

To put it simply, neither form of justice, in the abstract, can be universally applied in the concrete. To execute what seems "just" to some, even many, will always or nearly so be unjust to somebody.

So, should we let a utilitarian hedonistic calculus apply?

But, that leads me to the old Chinese or pseudo-Chinese parable, with the ongoing refrain of "could be good, could be bad."

What seems "just" to and/or for the majority now may not five months, five years or five decades from now. Maybe not even five days from now.

So, no, we shouldn't.

So, what CAN philosophy tell us in situations like this.

First of all, looking elsewhere in the East, something like Taoism can tell us all decisions are fraught with uncertainties and shades of gray.

Second, we can move on to Iranian philosopher Idries Shah, who uttered the aphorism, "There are never just two sides to an issue." While that itself is a bit too black-and-white for me, it nonetheless has a large kernel of truth.

Take the air strikes against Libya.

There is:
1. The tribal rebels' side (or sides, depending on how much or how little coherence they have;
2. The U.S. side;
3. The Franco-British side;
4. The Turkish side;
5. The Arab League side;
6. Gadhafi's side;
7. The Russian side;
8. And, though we've not heard from Beijing yet, surely, the Chinese side.

Even if we narrow the issue of "justice" here, rather than play realpolitik, at least the first three, if not the first five, are all legitimate "sides." And, all with different definitions, at least in narrow particulars if not major strands, as to what might be "just."

And, also, since "just war" ultimately has religious roots, shouldn't we be careful about it for that reason, too? Monotheistic religions deal in black and white; I prefer my philosophy with more nuance. And, my secularism in general.

March 24, 2011

Being logical isn't the same as being right

You can slice and dice logical arguments to support all sorts of claims. That includes what evidence you include as warrants vs. what countervailing empirical evidence you exclude from discussion.

Especially in real-world informal logic, how you frame the parameters of the argument is another way of slicing and dicing an issue to an already-held conclusion.

Take Massimo Pigliucci's argument for bombing Libya.

Sure, in a vacuum of Libya and no other foreign policy worries, might be great. But, why Libya and not Yemen? Or, why not Cote d'Ivoire a year ago?

Massimo goes on, in what is nearly 100 posts down the list, in response to me, to say he has non-humanitarian reasons, as well, to support intervention in Libya. I've asked what they are, because I don't see any that aren't either directly or indirectly related to oil. Terrorism? Since we intercepted the ship with nuclear supplies headed to Libya several years ago, Gadhafi had become "our guy," so scratch that, even if Massimo makes that claim.

Massimo also limits the parameters of the argument by saying his support for air strikes doesn't mean support for intervention. But, given criticism of the Obama Administration, that it doesn't have an exit policy, and that our British and French allies have pushed going beyond air strikes, if necessary, that "restriction" might work in formal logic, but, in a real-world political situation, doesn't.

I drop by Massimo's blog regularly, and have totally agreed with his take on people like Sam Harris and Jonathan Haidt.

But here? Being logical isn't the same as being right.

At the least, without engaging in serious multi-valued logic, with answers that would include things like "maybe" and "maybe not." With that in mind, I wouldn't say Massimo is wrong on his support for Libyan air strikes. I would say that, to use the old Scottish jury verdict, he's only reached the "not proven" state.

And, I wouldn't say I, or others, are "right" to argue against air strikes.

At bottom line?

Not only is being logical not the same as being right, the use of bipolar western logic to try to "prove rightness" is often wrong.

Arguably, such situations are even a good example of Hume's famous dictum: "Reason must be the slave of the passions."

Again, there's not necessarily a "right" or a "wrong" involved. But, in this particular case, since Massimo is claiming non-humanitarian reasons for Libyan intervention, and I doubt he can name a good non-oil-related one, I think, on the passions, he's wrong.

Beyond that, I haven't even touched on the issue of "just war." (I believe, per Walter Kaufmann's evisceration of "justice" as an abstract concept, that "just war" as an abstract concept is a mix of philosophical non sequitur and invitation to political mischief in democratic or quasi-democratic societies, especially when inveighed with religious overtones.)

I should note that I've hinted before that Massimo practices "philosophism," the hyper-philosophic parallel to scientism.

Our constitutional law hating President

So now, our constitutional law scholar Prez (remember that campaign artifact, from his promises to clean up Gitmo, etc.?) wants to restrict Miranda rights.

That's our "constitutional law" president — only thing he knows about constitutional law is how to fold, spindle and mutilate it.

Obama loves global warming

What else can you say when Interior Secretary Kenny Boy Salazar flies to Wyoming to "cheerlead" federal coal sales?

March 23, 2011

Why not a nonprofit digital library?

This is a great idea; it's much better than the rightfully-rejected Google Books. All we need now is the money to make this a reality.

Note to Digby: I don't wear team jerseys

Blogger Digby can be quite interesting, usually insightful, often spot-on.

But, per this blog post, about how humanitarian our motives in Libya may or may not be, she may be a part of the problem herself, to some degree:
People keep asking me if I support Dennis Kucinich's call to impeach Obama for failing to get congressional authorization for the operation in Libya. Actually no, and not because Obama wears my team jersey.
I take away from this that she wears "the Democratic team jersey."

Sorry, Digs, but until you're ready to start advocating third-party voting, your anger at the D.C. Village, neoliberal pseudoliberal Democrats, etc., just isn't enough.

March 22, 2011

Barry Bonds is an idiot

In the first day of the perjury trial of MLB all-time home-run leader Barry Bonds, that was, in essence, the argument made by Bonds' attorneys.

Because, really, only an idiot who is an eight-figure, that is, $10-million-plus a year professional athlete, will use a substance without knowing what it is.

But, that's what his mouthpiece claims:
Barry Bonds admits using steroids during his baseball career, his lawyer told a jury Tuesday. The catch is that Bonds' personal trainer misled him into believing he was taking flax seed oil and arthritis cream.

"I know that doesn't make a great story," Allen Ruby said during his opening statement at the home run leader's perjury trial. "But that's what happened."
That said, given that the records of his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, are inadmissible in court, legally, this is Bonds' best strategy.

As for the government's case, girlfriend Kimberly Bell will be key. Now, Ruby will likely try to impeach her character by claiming she has ulterior motives. But, unless he can present clear evidence to that end, it's going to be hard indeed to prove that.

I'm sure Ruby won't call Bonds to the stand to try to contradict her, either.

As for the government having a vendetta? Well, Jeff Novitzky might; he's about as competitive as Bonds. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parrella? I highly doubt it.

Beyond that, there's no middle ground, legally or factually. What charge could be offered instead of perjury in a plea bargain? And, would Bonds accept it? Not likely.

As for his legal guilt, I put odds of conviction at 3:2 against. The government has enough of a chance, and enough investment in the case, it won't fold its tent.

Reaganomics refuted again

Despite all of their economy-stimulating hype, the Bush tax cuts have been a flop. The federal government gets less tax money per capita now than in 2000.
Individual income taxes came to just $2,900 per capita in 2010, down 36 percent from more than $4,500 in 2000. Total income taxes and income taxes per capita declined even though the economy grew 16 percent overall and 6 percent per capita from 2000 through 2010.
Or, to put it in graphic detail:

But, the trickle-down idea of Reaganomics isn't new. It goes back at least as far as Pierre du Pont and his opposition to the then-new Federal income tax in the 1920s.

Juan Cole at least part wrong on Libya

Juan Cole, in defense of President Barack Obama says Libya is not Iraq. It's not that Cole doesn't make some valid points, it's that some of them are irrelevant, or, per a Glenn Greenwald, could be applied to dozens of countries besides both Libya and Iraq. In short, Cole comes close to becoming a Wilsonian interventionist, if not embracing it fully.

Civilians massacred? Happens in many countries.

Arab League support? C'mon, Juan, they're trying to deflect attention away from their own nasty suppression of Shi'ites in the Gulf.

None of the UN anticipates putting boots on the ground? Well, France and the UK still are making noise about hoping to topple Gadhafi.

Libya 2011 more a threat than Iraq 2003? Please, Juan. Maybe it would be to Tunisia, but to Egypt?

War by committee in Libya a snafu in waiting

If the latest proposal to get NATO and the Arab League more involved with the action in Libya isn't a clusterfuck-in-waiting, I don't know what is.
Earlier Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the creation of a wider political committee to run the operation, which would include the Arab League as well as NATO members.

"For us, the intervention is firstly an operation wanted by the United Nations. ... It is run by a coalition of member states, all of whom are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe in outlining the proposal.

"This is, therefore, not a NATO operation, even if it must be able to rely on military planning and intervention capacities of the Alliance," Juppe said.

He said the new body would bring together foreign ministers of participating states — including Britain, France and the U.S. — as well as Arab nations. It is expected to meet in coming days, either in Brussels, London or Paris.
Once again, military action without an exit strategy rears its ugly head.

Here's part of the problem:
While all the countries in the coalition share a political goal — Gadhafi's removal from power — "not everyone agrees whether this is the military aim," said Shashank Joshi, an analyst with London-based Royal United Services Institute.

"Britain and France want to keep this as an option, because they see it as feasible and viable ... while the policy of the U.S. is that they are absolutely not willing to take military action to further that end," Joshi said. "They want to set a clear limit to their enmeshment, for symbolic and practical reasons."
And we know the Arab League doesn't want military intervention.

That said, how many more U.S. journalists can Gadhafi hold hostage before Americans push for something, anything "more" to be done?

And, I have to say, I disagree with Juan Cole saying Libya is not Iraq. It's not that Cole doesn't make some valid points, it's that some of them are irrelevant, or, per a Glenn Greenwald, could be applied to dozens of countries besides both Libya and Iraq. In short, Cole comes close to becoming a Wilsonian interventionist, if not embracing it fully.

Paywalls and leaks — are they desirable?

The Nieman Labs note that the new New York Times paywall, already live in Canada, can, in current incarnation, be cracked with just four lines of Javascript. And, it says, beyond that, that some "leakiness" in a paywall, if the media company knows how to manage it, can actually be a good thing.

The story approaches the issue in part from a cost-benefit analysis. It notes that there are a couple of classes of people who are simply determined not to pay for content in such situations. Those who have the skill, or who get the information from someone else who has the skill, will work around the paywall easily enough. As long as they're looking at ads, the story says, and maybe clocking an occasional one, then the NYT is still ahead, rather than spending more money to tighten the paywall.


Just one problem with that analysis.

Those same people, in general, are already blocking ads on their computers. I can't believe Nieman was either that dumb or that naive.

And, beyond THAT, the reason WHY for paywalls is to generate revenue not only from falling Internet ad rates, but, because savvy online news readers are already blocking ads, and savvy online newspaper IT staff know that.

That said, from there, we can honestly discuss whether a "straight" paywall, a "freemium" system, or a metered system like that of the NYT is the best thing for a daily newspaper vs. a "weekly" (in hardcopy) magazine, etc.

But, this idea that a fair amount of "leakage" will actually help on the ad side? Stupid.

Tear down the stock market, former SEIU official said

Former SEIU official Stephen Lerner wants to pull a Samson on Wall Street. Per the link, the union apparently canned him over his first raising this as a serious idea.

To be honest, the monkey-wrenching itself, I'm not sure how much that would upset me, or make me worry. The idea that the government wouldn't act swiftly, and with more power, at least at the end, than the monkey-wrenchers, is the issue.

March 21, 2011

Libya - $100 million a day and counting

True, $100 million a day may, at first, be chump change to the U.S. budget. But, with no exit strategy, with Europeans' military presence still thin and likely to remain so, $100 million a day for maintaining Libya's no-fly zone to protect largely discordant tribalists will add up soon enough.

And, it's no more likely that Gadhafi will accommodate Obama's "suggestion" to step down than Saddam Hussein did for Arab leaders before Bush's invasion.

It's no wonder the military action has attracted Congressional foes from straight-shooting Republican Sen. Richard Lugar through centrist GOP-turned Dem Sen. Jim Webb to liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinch.
"There needs to be a plan about what happens after Kadafi," Lugar said. "Who will be in charge then, and who pays for this all? President Obama, so far, has only expressed vague hopes."
Per the top-linked story, soon, Team Obama will have to ask for a "supplemental," and the sparks will fly. Non-sensible GOPers will probably still be divided on the issue, tea partiers opposed but some neocon types supportive, and Dems won't be fully unified either.

Beyond that, why Libya, vs., say, Yemen? Is it, in the end, about the oil? It's kind of hard to argue against that — another parallel with Iraq.

Did Gang Green sell out wolves in the northern Rockies?

Given that one Gang Green group, Defenders of Wildlife, has already sent out an e-mail mass blast with a "fact sheet," all while admitting the settlement between environmental groups and federal and state governments was "a tough decision," I'd say the answer is at least a possible yes.

I had thought about blogging about this when it popped up, but just didn't have time at the moment. That said, part of the settlement has different, state-based wolf protection standards in each of he three norther Rockies states, something for which a federal court recently blasted U.S. Fish and Wildlife. So, if not a total sellout, it was a fairly weak compromise.

The idea that Montana and Idaho can have different standards for a wolf pack than the U.S. government will have for the same pack in Yellowstone just doesn't fly. the idea that those two states won't look at previous court rulings and creep as close to the edge as they think hey can and get away with it won't surprise me.

That said, folks like Greater Yellowstone Coalition aren't technically part of "Gang Green. Certainly, Center for Biological Diversity isn't. So, whether I should see that as a silver lining, that the compromise can't be that bad, because groups like it signed off, or if instead, I should see it as a dark cloud that even group like those would sell out, I don't know.

Here's the actual settlement press release, with other information. From the fact that the 10 environmental groups involved agreed to a common press release clearly indicates to me they're worried about the "sellout" implications, and, at the same time, from the language, they're clearly worried about the current GOP Congress. Well, most the Gang Green type groups, butter their bread straight-up Democrat, therefore, it's no surprise to NOT hear them express worry about the Obama Interior Department. In turn, that further highlights the sellout issue in the first place.

(Update: CBD has its own post-settlement news release here.)

But, it will be Obama's Interior, headed by wolf-disliking rancher Ken Salazar, that approves Montana and Idaho management plans.

Update, April 1: No, no April Fools' Day joke, just sick Congresscritters who are pushing ahead with bills to gut the Endangered Species act. My take on that, and Gang Green and non-Gang Green enviros' naivete or worse, here.

Good news on FISA front

As Glenn Greenwald notes, an appeals court has said that plaintiffs in a suit the ACLU has brought against the U.S. government over warrantless telecommunications wiretapping have legal standing to sue the government.

Team Obama had been continuing the BushCo argument that the plaintiffs could not prove they themselves had been harmed by the snooping and that, due to the stase secretes executive privilege, they could not look at records to determine if this might be the case.

Well, now, just maybe, the state secrets bullshit can get blown up in court.

Maybe some Internet utopians can fill amicus briefs on behalf of poor, poor Team Obama, too.

Or, more seriously, maybe Wikileaks can have some new dumps, directly relevant to this, by the time this goes to SCOTUS because, without that, given the Supremes' deference to the executive branch, I'm afraid this will be overturned.

Another blow to transnationalism

One claim of Internet utopians, as well as free-trader types, is that we're moving more and more beyond national boundaries and governmetns, and the whole idea of nationalism.

Tell that to China. And to Google. Since Google says China is blocking access to Gmail there.

You know the problem is bad if Google's been siting on it for two months, too.

Big Douthat #fail on Libya

Ignoring all the neocons enthusiastic for intervention ion Libya, Ross Douthat calls it another liberal intervention, out of Clinton's playbook, no less.

The Dark Side of the Internet — military astroturf bots

In part 2 of this ongoing series, I called out Clay Shirkey (and boy extension, Michael Shermer, Jeff Jarvis and other Internet utopians) for their failure to wrestle with the idea that Western democracies, especially now that we are in a "War on Terror" will have little compunction about Internet-spying and games-playing on their own people. Beyond the history of 19th-century Europe, the First Red Scare and the War on Drugs in the U.S. would have provided enough food and information on those lines for thought.

In current times, I mentioned the HBGary Federal e-mail promoting its ability to set up cyberbots, or astroturfing bots, to "game" liberal blogs and other sites on the Internet.

Well, now it's happening.

The U.S. Army is devising software to do just that. Now, the Pentagon says it will be used only overseas.
Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to "address US audiences" with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter.
Right. Remember the quaint idea that the CIA would only operate overseas? That one was shredded 40 years ago. And, we saw how the NSA shredded that overseas-local distinction with its warrantless domestic wiretapping.

Remember also this is the same Army that recently got busted for having brainwashed U.S. Senators about Afghanistan.

Notify Clay Shirky, Michael Shermer and other Internet utopians ASAP.

(Hat tip Discover magazine.)

March 20, 2011

SEIU neoliberal unionism gets RICO-ed

SEIU has a long history of playing nice with businesses in exchange for getting favors in return, even if those favors are more illusory than real. I don't think it's as bad as that, post-Andy Stern. Maybe that fact is why Sodexo has filed a RICO lawsuit against it.

Sodexo accuses SEIU of the following, among other things:
• throwing plastic roaches onto food being served by Sodexo USA at a high profile event;
• scaring hospital patients by insinuating that Sodexo USA food contained bugs, rat droppings, mold and flies;
• lying to interfere with Sodexo USA business and sneaking into elementary schools to avoid security;
• violating lobbying laws to steer business away from Sodexo USA, even at the risk of costing Sodexo USA employees their jobs; and
• harassing Sodexo USA employees by threatening to accuse them of wrongdoing.

Certainly, if Stern were still in charge, this would be a full-fledged schadenfreude alert post. But, it wouldn't be because of any praise or love for Sodexo, which has connections to military privatization, prison privatization and more, both in the U.S. and abroad. But, Google and Blogger, whether for reelz for cuz national security state, claim my original link was malware, so you google.

Karma — as offensive as hell

This extended CNN blog, with broadly multifaith comments on "why suffering" in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear worries, following the Japanese tsunami and eaerthquake, makes the case well for me.

Is it any worse for a fundamentalist Christian to say:
1. God is inscrutable;
2. Original sin brought on this disaster for you;
3. It's God's prerogative to damn some people to hell.

Or a hardcore Buddhist to say:
1. Karma is inscrutable;
2. Your past life that you can't even remember brought on this disaster for you;
3. It's a cyclical universe's "prerogative" to damn some people to recurring rounds of bad karma.
(The Buddhist version is more offensive than the Hindu version because it claims that not even a person or personality, but just a "life force" is reincarnated and the "self" [nonexistent as it allegedly is] is STILL punished in a new life.)

I know of people who are skeptics, and atheists, even, in the sense of not believing in a western monotheist divinity, that still believe in the metaphysics of karma. Well, sorry, but, karma's as offensive as the heaven-hell of western monotheism.

Beyond that, both western and eastern religion offer the same pablum when confronted with the problem of evil.

And, a "shout out" to "it's not a religion" Buddhist Sam Harris — what say you now?

Social Darwinism, Great Recession, and rightists

I don't know whether this company in question is owned by a tea partier or a more generic right winger, but ...
The job, posted on, seemed promising - an opening in Texas for a quality engineer with experience in dimensional gauging and benchtop test equipment, offering up to $62,000 a year.

But the advertisement included a caveat: "Client will not consider/review anyone not currently employed regardless of the reason."
A job where the company won't even consider the application of a currently unemployed person? Social Darwinism is raising its ugly rightist head.

There's no other word for some of the employment issues the Great Recession has raised, other than Social Darwinism.

And, I wouldn't want to work at a company like this anyway.

More on this Social Darwinism:
"Sometimes the unemployed are unemployed for a reason, and the reason is they are lousy," said Ken Dubin, president of the Dubin Group, a Bala Cynwyd recruiting agency that specializes in accounting and finance.
No, Ken, it's called age discrimination, often.f

But, refusing to hire the unemployed is itself not a discriminatory offense under EEOC purview.

What's behind Japan's post-disaster orderliness?

First, why no stealing, or not much?

Financial incentives for turning in missing property, along with strong community policing.

And, perhaps, as Nick Kristof says, Japanese communitarianism and its version of a British stiff upper lip.

However, some native Japanese say that communitarianism has been fading away for some time.

Arab League goes hypocritical on Libya

Did the Arab League, whose support for the current air action against Libya was crucial to internationalizing its support, really think there would be no casualties? Or, did you think the U.S. wouldn't make the no-fly zone easier to enforce by taking out Ligyan air capacity?

Stop complaining, whether it's from hypocrisy or cluelessness.

That said, it's really not "internationalized." It's the U.s., with a dash of lapdog Britain and a little French opening elan, since President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing an election soon. Surprised Berlusconi isn't flying a few planes over Libya to obscure his possibly pending trial.

Meanwhile, U.S. talking heads are all over the place on this issue. Neocons talking abou8t our image in the Arab world. What a laugh.

Does AT&T really care about rural broadband?

Probably enough. But it cares enough that President Obama cares about it to mention it in a press release announcing it's buying T-Mobile.