April 02, 2011

Hugh Raffles doesn't know ecology

Claiming, as he does in this NYT op-ed, that invasive species are good, is clueless.
Designating some as native and others as alien denies this ecological and genetic dynamism. It draws an arbitrary historical line based as much on aesthetics, morality and politics as on science, a line that creates a mythic time of purity before places were polluted by interlopers.
To such nonsense, I reply: "Tamarisk," also known as "saltcedar."

Or "kudzu." Or "starling."

Even worse is his personalizing this, by claiming alien plants enhance a society just like immigrants, then at the end of the column, turning to his own naturalization ceremony.

And, the NYT, even with a putative paywall, still doesn't let us peons comment on op-ed stories.

Anonymous sourcing gets even more ridiculous

Here's the latest. On political strategy for a presidential race that won't have its first semi-binding vote for nine months .... granting campaign aides anonymity to "leak" about their boss's campaign plans.
Allies and aides who outlined the path that Romney is charting to the nomination spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publically discuss private strategy sessions.
Ridiculous. "Traditional media" gets worse at this all the time.

Oh, and Philip Elliott of the AP, "publically" is NOT a word. "Publicly" is.

Spiegel's must-read on U.S. military's Afghan kill teams

I hadn't gotten myself fully up to speed on the issue, but, Der Spiegel is all over the issue that American media are still (with the exception, overall, of McClatchy) slow to address. That issue is the "kill teams" ... the issue that at least in some military units, soldiers are not just heartless toward but ready to brutally kill Afghan civilians.

First, per one soldier, Adam Wingfield, who was concerned about it, the "kill, kill, kill" attitude sounds kind of common:
There are people in my platoon that can get away with 'murder.' They planned and went through with it. ... Pretty much the whole platoon knows about it. It's OK with all of them pretty much, except me. I want to do something about it, the only problem is I don't feel safe here telling anyone.
Meanwhile, despite Gen. Petraeus' allegedly having concern for Afghan civilians as part of his counterinsurgency, how well is he working to INSIST that message percolates down? Maybe not totally?

Winfield again:
I have to make up my mind. Should I do the right thing and put myself in danger, or should I just shut up and deal with it? The army really let me down out here. When I thought I would come here to do any good, maybe make some change in this country, I find out it is all a lie. There are no good men left here.
What brought this attitude on?

Can we, like FiredogLake, say it's all a "hate industry" at home?

No. To the degree this is hate-based, racial and ethnic hatred have never needed an "industry" to fuel them. If anything, any causal correlation is the other way.

Second, the military trains people to kill. After actual stories (whether close to true or not) that in World War I, very few riflemen actually fired to kill, armies around the world ever since have worked on molding soldiers into psychologically "better" killers. There's not necessarily any ethnic hatred involved. That said, it makes it harder to have uniformed soldiers be the lead on counterinsurgency, especially when their mission is hugely undermanned, putting them on edge in an uncertain countryside all the time.

Adam's mom, Emma, and another military mom talks about that:
For the soldiers of the 5th Stryker Brigade, the new COIN strategy was a non-starter, says Audrey Morlock, Jeremy's mother. The Army didn't provide her son with training for this strategy, she says. "For three years, my boy was only trained (to do) one thing -- kill, kill, kill." The Winfields also have the impression that the requirements for the soldiers which came with the new COIN strategy overburdened them. "How were they supposed to protect the population?" asks his mother Emma.
Bingo. Oh, this is yet another reason to note that the British counterinsurgency in Malaysia was far different than what Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal proposed.

So, instead of blaming a "hate machine," let's blame politicians from President Obama on down who still want to believe, and want to have the American public believe, a ground war can be fought on the cheap. Let's blame generals like Petraeus who refuse to counteract many Americans' video game version of war and won't tell the politicians the truth, as Spiegel notes in discussing the Pentagon's fear of war atrocities photos coming to light. And, let's blame Americans who want to believe all this and who, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, aren't being asked to "feel" the cost of war.

Here's the reality, as Spiegel describes it:
Adam Winfield rarely saw the enemy. He and his comrades only saw the Talibans' helpers through their night-vision devices when the enemy was burying landmines -- they hid during the day. For days, the Americans did nothing but carry out senseless patrols. The soldiers became frustrated and bored.

The enemy, says Adam's father, is invisible until somebody gets blown up. "They are fighting against ghosts."
Of course they're going to be skittish, and not do well on counterinsurgency work.

That said, again, let's remember these facts:
1. Americans want to hear lies about the painless, techie nature of modern war.
2. Politicians don't want to upset citizens, nor appear "weak on war"; in Bush's case, it includes continuing to tell lies about what his administration achieved in Afghanistan.
3. The military brass will "sell" whatever it can, while doing another thing in reality, for a number of reasons.

So, you're going to get a clusterfuck.

That's why good liberals who write blank checks of support for the Army aren't such good liberals. That's especially true when a "professional" army, versus draftees, is more likely to produce incidents such as these, in my opinion.

As for Adam Winfield? Does his finally giving into pressure to join the kill team make him murderer or victim of psychological bullying? Or a bit of both?

While glad I've never been in a situation such as his and presuming I never will be, we can't consider him 100 percent innocent. I'm not going to lay down exact percentages, but, we can't totally excuse him.

Andrew Wakefield - more blood on his hands

What else can you saw about the not-only long-discredited Andrew Wakefield, but the money-hungry data-cheating Andrew Wakefield, with the spread of measles in Minnesota, especially as he deliberately seeks out barely, and partially, Westernized Somali women and fear-mongers the alleged and over-hyped dangers of vaccines.

And, the AP reporter doesn't know much about the antivaxxer movement's tentacles, either. Otherwise she wouldn't have interviewed and quoted antivaxxer Wayne Rohde, a regular at Age of Autism, as a defender of Wakefield.
"Unfortunately a lot of the media thinks he's saying 'Don't get vaccinated.' That's far from the truth. He's basically encouraging people to get vaccinated but do your homework and know the risks," said Wayne Rohde, a co-founder of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, which says parents should have other options for immunizing their children.
No, that's surely NOT what he's doing. Rather, he's fear-mongering, highly inflating the quite small dangers of vaccination to women recently immigrated from a part of the world where anti-Christian Muslim extremists fear-monger about vaccines as a Christian plot at times.

I'll be charitable enough to assume the AP reporter is a general assignment reporter; nonetheless, in the age of teh Google, reporting like this simply isn't good. Period.

Oh, and yes, antivaxxers, Age of Autism IS antivaxxer. Read here.

April 01, 2011

Joe Nocera comes out swinging

The newest New York Times op-ed columnist skewers Warren Buffett in his first column.

Good thing, too. For too long, too many financial reporters, and columnists, have operated under the assumption that "The Sage of Omaha" had a halo.

Well, from his ownership of the Buffalo News onward, the answer is NOT.

Of course, in the past, as a business writer, he's bought into conventional Beltway wisdom at times, as Naked Capitalism notes.

Gohmert Pyle strikes again

Arguably Texas' most nutbar emissary to the Congress of the United States, Rep. Louis Gohmert appears determined to top himself, time and time again.

The latest? President Obama's military action against Libya is possibly part of a nefarious Obamacare plot.
It's a bad bill. And then when you find out that the prior Congress not only passed that 2,800 page bill with all kinds of things in it, including a new president's commissioned officer corps and non-commissioned officer corps. Do we really need that? I wondered when I read that in the bill. But then when you find out we're being sent to Libya to use our treasure and American lives there, maybe there's intention to so deplete the military that we're going to need that presidential reserve officer commissioned corps and non-commissioned corps that the president can call up on a moment's notice involuntarily, according to the Obamacare bill.
No, really.

Don't believe the pull quote? Here's Gohmert Pyle in his own words.



And, as we see him in gear-churning action, this isn't surprising ....

Enviros wolf sellout may be for naught

But, we're seeing teh stupid exposed.

Western Congressmen are already trying to gut a deal brokered between the Obama Administration and environmental groups on how much protection, and at what administrative level, wolfs in Greater Yellowstone would get.

I blogged about what was wrong with that settlement here. At the time, I said I could understand the fear that Gang Green, and even a group like Center for Biological Diversity, more willing to legally confront the government and less suck-up to the Democratic Party, had that Congress would go further.

Well, that fear was real. And, this could be yet something else to which a budget settlement is made hostage, too.

That said, a group that did NOT sign off on the agreement gets it right, and always had it right:
"From the outset, it was clear that nobody from those Congressional offices had made any promises," said Summer Nelson with the Western Watersheds Project. "This settlement is not going to appease them."
Normally, someone like Kieran Suckling of Center for Biological Diversity is this smart, too. Why he and his group signed off on the agreement in the first place, I don't know. Ditto for other non-Gang Green groups.

Seriously, though. Signing "on the premise" of a Congressional deal is NOT the same as signing "on the agreement" of a deal.

Especially when it's not just Congress we have to worry about:
It is unclear whether the Obama administration will take a stand against the bills to give the settlement time to work. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told Tester he supported the Montana senator's legislation during a March 9 appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
It's clear that the Obama Administration, while more environmentalist that W's, is less so, overall, than Clinton's. Yes, the EPA is doing some good things, but on species protection? Yeesh. Kenny Boy Salazar was going to disappoint from the day he was appointed.

Why does Perry hate Hispanics?

Ron Brownstein makes clear what's at stake for the future of Texas public education, Hispanic education, and the long-term future of the GOP in Texas (IF, IF, IF Texas Democrats can manage this) with the 2012-13 state budget up for discussion in Bananastan with Boots.

Again, an every-other-year legislature, along with the franchise tax "fix" that wasn't, is part of Texas' problems. With a session, even a short session, last year, the state could have addressed economic problems a year ago.

Of course, that means admitting, in non tea party fashion, you HAVE economic problems in the first place.

Matt Dowd likes Obama's 2012 chances

He says three things have to happen for the GOP to topple him, and only one — a charismatic candidate — is in GOP control.

The other two are the economy and foreign policy.

And, in the Libya case, they're kind of linked.

If Obama can get lucky enough to get that resolved quickly (oh, by the way, B.O., to where will Gadhafi go in exile??), then oil should stay below $110/barrel through next year. But, he's going to have to do more than Kumbaya on energy policy issues.

If oil stays below that benchmark, I think unemployment will be below 8.5 percent at the end of this year and around 8.0 percent by Election Day. Not as good as Reagan had in 1984, but it could be good enough.

As for the charismatic? The most charismatic GOP candidates, actual or hinted, are also its most nutbar. That's Bachmann, semi-charistmatic Gingrich, and the in-the-wings Palin. Of course, on religious beliefs, you have the non-charismatic nutbar Mike Huckabee.

Trickle-down behavioralism

THAT, behavioralism that runs more people into debt, not trickle-down economic benefit, is the biggest result of increasing income disparity, says Joe Stiglitz, in a must-read story.
Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. ...

The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.

Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe.
The only problem is, is that most middle-class right-wingers still operate on faith in this area, as in many areas of their lives.

Like the young Ronald Reagan, they believe the presence of a shitpile automatically means a beautiful horse is also in the neighborhood. Or, if they believe in their god enough, one will be delivered to them. Or, they continue to believe they can either pressure the nonreligious rich in exchange for their votes on social issues, or that they have common cause.

Or, that class divisions are played up by liberals, or liberals' fault in the first place. (Well, since real liberals haven't been around since LBJ, that's a hard argument to make.)

(Sidebar — this raises the issue of "spillover" in people's religious beliefs and their effects on wider society. But, I don't want to confound stuff too much.)

Anyway, religious or not, I think many rightists, and a fair chunk of centrists, beyond any religious reasons, are still too wedded to American exceptionalism in this area as part of why they resist facing the fact that America is more class-based, in terms of incomes at least, than "old Europe."

March 31, 2011

Hey, La Russa, about Ryan for Theriot ....

Tony La Russa's chemistry or whatever change at shortstop has backfired, at least on Opening Day.

Ryan Theriot, replacing Brendan Ryan, has made a throwing error costing the Cards two runs in extra innings.

Our billion-dollar "liberal" president

Yes, you read that header right.

Between primary and general election campaigns, Barack Obama may raise $1 billion in campaign funds.

Disgusting.

So, the man has no effing business criticizing Citizens' United.

He made his campaign finance bed, let him sleep in it.

Made in China crap exported EVERYWHERE

How is China exporting its imperialism to sub-Saharan Africa? Largely through massive infrastructure projects.

Just one problem. The projects are largely of Potemkin-village quality. Having to rip up roads and tear down buildings after just a decade? How long will Africans trust Chinese to really be concerned about them?

Beyond that, no, it doesn't really help Africa's development. The roads are all built by Chinese. The work increases corruption in the African governments, and probably in the Chinese companies.

So, Beijing in the long term? Maybe not such a fear.

March 30, 2011

A couple of 'reads' to get ready for opening day

First, from the New York Times' Disunion series, here's a good column on baseball, in its multiple varieties, striving to separate itself from cricket and gain popularity at the start of the Civil War.

It's interesting, given the number of Southern players at the time modern professional baseball took off, after the start of the World Series, how little popularity baseball had south of the Mason-Dixon Line in 1861.

Second, here's former MLB player and manager Bobby Valentine, wondering in a NYT op-ed if it ain't about time to get chewing and snuff tobacco out of MLB dugouts. In the wake of Tony Gwynn and his recent grueling recovery from oral cancer, it's timely indeed.

I agree, by the way. Let's have players set a better example. And a cleaner one.

Obama and the ghost of 1968

Will yet another undeclared war launched by President Barack Obama potentially make 2012 his 1968, as in the 1968 of LBJ?

Steve Chapman, in a good column, argues it's at least a possibility.

Liberal Democrats are already pushing to get us out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, even as Obama wants us there until 2014.

With U.S. troops, still around 100,000, in Afghanistan next January, while snow is on the ground in Iowa and active voters are caucusing in Des Moines and Waterloo, will Obama get a Eugene McCarthy? If so, whom?

Chapman says yes to that first question, too, and speculates Russ Feingold from his left. Or maybe Jim Webb from his right, and rear.

Webb, I kind of doubt. Feingold? Iowa IS next door to Wisconsin.

Other than Feingold, Denny the Dwarf Kucinich could mount another challenge, but, the "seriosness" factor would hurt him, unfortunately.

Howard Dean's not that liberal, and he's on Obama's side. No current or former Democratic governor jumps off the pages at me.

Lighten up, Augusta National

Top pro golf Tweeters Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell Tweeted some pics from the allegedly more sacrosanct areas of Augusta National Golf Course, home of The Masters.

And, Augusta got bent out of shape.

And, Devil Ball Golf on Yahoo defends the course.

I say, instead of Poults Tweeting a pic, though, let's sneak Gary McCord in there on a hunt for Masters bikini wax.

Seriously, are members of the country club going to start policing the grounds? The players? Will Poulter or someone else put a spy camera in a pimento cheese sandwich?

Obama to US: be less hypocritical on oil than I am

Sure, it sounds like a nice idea: Preznit Kumbaya, as part of his energy speech, saying, can we just not get so jumpy over oil price increases?

Could you, rather than spending money on bombing Libya, push for regulation to reign in oil speculators?

Oh, sorry, Wall Street gave more to your election campaign than to McCain's. Guess regulating commodities speculators (one thing that didn't get done as part of the consumer finance agency bill or other things) isn't so "easy" after all.

William D. Cohan has more on the missed opportunities (or deliberately avoided ones?) for financial reform that Obama had.

The unbearable Libya lightness of Juan Cole

Cole is someone for whom I, like Glenn Greenwald, had a lot of respect for on issues related to Iraq and Afghanistan. But, with a breezy, one-paragraph defense of the Libya incursion, based largely on the fig leaf of UN blessing (a fig leaf that at least Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thinks is selective, and not blocking the U.S. from selling arms to the rebels), it's really hard to take him seriously on his defense.

I left a comment on his one-paragraph blog post, asking if he agrees with Clinton, that we have the right to arm the rebels now.

We'll see what his answer is, and we'll see how this shows how little or how much the two magic letters "UN" are a shibboleth for him.

Here's Greenwald's open letter to Cole.

Or, Juan, what do we do if, say, the UN Security Council calls for members to act in the Ivory Coast?

Or, what do we do when the other 14 Security Council members condemn Israeli settlements? Well, we just found out the answer to that one.

The "liberal" half of America's ruling class will exploit "UN" in whatever ways it wants. And you're dumb enough to tag along and provide "cover."

Beyond that, his father's years of service in the Army Signal Corps (per Cole's Wiki page) and his admission that he sometimes does consulting work for the military (details, Juan?) might mean we need to raise an eyebrow at just how liberal he actually is.

Libya no-fly zones don't create no-fight Gadhafi — what next?

First, it's clear that pro-government forces in Libya have plenty of fight left.

So, what's next?

For the Nobel Peace Prize Preznit Kumbaya, it's yet more mission creep, apparently.

That includes now using A-10 close-level attack planes on Gadhafi's ground artillery and urban defenses. (And getting the U.S. mainstream media to not immediately report advance discussion of this for "patriotic" reasons.)

That includes possibly arming rebels in spite of UN prohibition. (Guess that UN fig leaf is a selective one for liberal interventionists.) And, I left a semi-snarky comment for Juan Cole, asking him to address that within his defense of the Libya incursion.

It's also a problem the U.S. is considering arming the rebels despite still not knowing them well.

Libya no-fly zones don't create no-fight Gadhafi - what next?

Type your summary here Type rest of the post here

Obama practicing "universalism lite"

Couldn't agree more with this observation.

That said, beyond a "lite" version of Wilsonian interventionism, isn't everything Obama does a "lite" version of something substantive?

March 29, 2011

Beijing chuckling over Libya?

Stephen Walt, in discussing the difference between neoconservatives and liberal interventionalists, closes with a somber bit of realpolitik.

Beyond worrying about mission creep, undefined exit strategies and other things, he asks who is a likely winner over the Libyan escapade?
Back in Beijing, China's leaders must be smiling as they watch Washington walk open-eyed into another potential quagmire.
I can't argue.

Neocon vs neolib Wilsonian interventionists

Per Glenn Greenwald, Stephen Walt totally nails this issue.

The only difference between a Juan Cole and a Bill Kristol is whether or not the UN (or maybe, NATO) OKs an international intervention. That said, Cole may actually be a bit of a paleolib on domestic policy, but, it's a convenient shorthand.

Here's Walt, delivering the smackdown to liberal interventionalist Howard Dean:
During (a)Q & A, I talked about the narrowness of foreign policy debate in Washington and the close political kinship between the liberal interventionists of the Democratic Party and the neoconservatives that dominate the GOP. At one point, I said that "liberal interventionists are just ‘kinder, gentler' neocons, and neocons are just liberal interventionists on steroids."

Dean challenged me rather forcefully on this point, declaring that there was simply no similarity whatsoever between a smart and sensible person like U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and a "crazy guy" like Paul Wolfowitz. (I didn't write down Dean's exact words, but I am certain that he portrayed Wolfowitz in more-or-less those terms). I responded by listing all the similarites between the two schools of thought, and the discussion went on from there.

I mention this anecdote because I wonder what Dean would say now. In case you hadn't noticed, over the weekend President Obama took the nation to war against Libya, largely on the advice of liberal interventionists like Ambassador Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and NSC aides Samantha Power and Michael McFaul.
That's really the only difference on how the two sides split on the issue of American exceptionalism, too - how nicely we "package" exceptionalist claims for the outside world to see.

Walt goes on to worry about mission creep, the degree of continued involvement and related issues. All spot on.

He closes with this worrisome line:
And who's the big winner here? Back in Beijing, China's leaders must be smiling as they watch Washington walk open-eyed into another potential quagmire.
I can't argue.

Bring on the government shutdown?

First, it looks like both Democrats and Republicans are, if not geared up for it, at least resigned to it, or accepting its likelihood.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says, "Bring it on." So, too, does Howard Dean.

True, it could still be avoided. But, who wins, who loses, on the political chessboard? Salon has a handy scorecard for the zero-sum game of "concessions."

And, per that scorecard, Senate Dems appear to be at least starting to slouch toward Scenario 3, which Andrew Leonard identified as a big GOP win.

*Theoretically,* on the chessboard of politics, a shutdown would be a win for Dems, which is why they want it. But, given the current Democratic lineup from Preznit Kumbaya down, in reality, they'll blow a shutdown showdown like a weekend duffer missing a two-footer at the Masters. The Salon link and Reid's equivocating are Exhibit A on that.

Early thoughts on The Masters

I agree with Bob Harig; it's clear that Tiger-proofing Augusta hasn't just hurt Tiger. But, that was Tiger post-2006, not Tiger post-2009. (Oh, and you other golfers? Stop whining so much. The idea of anybody, in general, hitting wedges into hole after hole on par-4? Bleech.) The current Tiger Woods, Vegas odds possibilities aside, can't be the favorite this year. No matter the naive casual golf fan's puppy-dog love for TW. Nor can the struggling Phil Mickelson, with his variety of issues.

That includes the fact that Mickelson still can't get past Tiger in world ranking.

So, who is a "possibility"?

Despite a bit of relative mediocreness the last couple of weeks, Martin Kaymer has to be ranked high. Dustin Johnson, despite his issue in last year's majors. Graeme McDowell might bounce back from his recent struggles.

Three weeks ago, I would have said Vijay Singh could represent the old-timers' brigade, but not any more.

I'll throw out Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan as two other "names."

And, there's a good interactive on Augusta here.

Bohemian Grove loses to redwoods

A Bohemian Grove member found out about a 100-year logging plan for redwoods, and first tried to fight it within the rich conservative enclave.

When that went nowhere, he resigned his membership and allied with the Sierra Club to fight the move.

And, surprisingly, won a legal battle.

MLB has no excuse on roiding ignorance

A tidbit from the Barry Bonds perjury trial clearly points that out.

Back in 1999, San Francisco Giants trainer Stan Conte wanted to bar Bonds' personal trainers from the Giants' clubhouse, because he already had suspicions about them.

So, he went to Giants' owner Brian Sabean. Result?

Conte said Sabean's noncommittal language made it clear he wouldn't back Conte in such a move.

In other words, Sabean thought there was something about which he wanted to keep his head in the sand.

Michael Ruse, Dawkins fail to understand philosophical necessity

It's ironic to say that about a famed Ph.d. philosopher, and an atheist and skeptic of sorts to boot, as well as about a famous evolutionary biologist, if this is the case.

But, here, Ruse defends Richard Dawkins in advancing a secularist defense of natural evil in particular and, in relation to natural selection rather than a creator god, of the problem of evil in general.
But supposing that God did (and had to) create through law, then Richard Dawkins of all people offers a piece of candy to the Christian. Dawkins argues that the only physical way to get organic adaptation -- the design-like nature of living beings -- is through natural selection, that very painful mechanism that worried Darwin! Other mechanisms are either false (such as Lamarckism, the inheritance of acquired characteristics) or inadequate (such as saltationism, change by sudden jumps). In other words, although Darwinism does not speak to all cases of physical evil -- the earthquakes -- it does speak to the physical evil that it itself is supposed to bring on. It is Darwinism with suffering, or nothing.
So, Ruse seems to be claiming that Dawkins says a certain amount of "nature bloody red in tooth and claw" was necessary for evolution. And, as a philosopher, Ruse appears to be giving this the imprimatur that it was philosophically necessary.

But, just as there's no philosophical necessity for the amount of evil in the world for God to do good, there's no necessity for a certain amount of evil, in terms of natural evil, for natural selection to operate.

Dawkins isn't a philosopher, not even a real amateur one, so he can be partially forgiven. But, this is a BIG #fail for Ruse.

March 28, 2011

The Dark Side of the Internet — spamtivism as well as slacktivism

Pardon the neologism in the header. I'll jump right in to explaning it.

I think most readers know what slacktivism is. Sierra Club, ACLU or whomever, sends you an e-mail alert (or 12, especially if it's an enviro group — more on that below, too). It often has your "suggested" comment for your Member of Congress, EPA Administrator or whomever already written for you.

Ditto on the occasional suggestion to call your Member of Congress — your talking points are already written out in the e-mail alert.

Now, let's be honest.

How often do you edit that "suggested" text?

If you're like me, the answer is "rarely," at best.

And, per my previous blog post in this thread, you KNOW that Congressional staffers — or, speaking of environmental issues, from which I am most familiar with this — staff for EPA, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service, etc., quickly become familiar with the pre-written text and so quickly start ignoring copycat e-mails.

So, slacktivism strikes out. And, if you're honest, you probably know that, too.

But, IMO, slacktivism is only part of the problem.

The base problem is "spamtivism."

Because such e-mail alerts make slacktivism easy, they also make it easy for nonprofits to see how easily you follow through on such slacktivist actions.

Why do you think Sierra Club, etc, send you "slacktivism confirmation" emails? It's a bit of a psychological carrot. And, it's the perfect way to say:
Now that you've sent that email, can you click this new link and send us $20 while you're at it?
And that, my friends, is "spamtivism."

I mention Sierra because enviros in general and Gang Green groups in particular are BAD about this.

They were bad about this back in the days of paper mailings, in the process, with the mounds of paper generated, undercutting some of their environmental cred.

They're also good at manufacturing and recycling crises.

For instance, since the start of the year, I've gotten more than half a dozen activism emails about uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. Realistically, is that worry (albeit a serious one) any closer to reality than it was four months ago?

You know that answer too.

So, why?

Gang Green will probably say, if it says anything, that this is because it loses so many members of its groups every year.

Ex-members will respond that they quit because of the bombardment, and seeing through the bombardment.

Unfortunately, though not as much, I think smaller enviro groups are creeping further down the spamtivism path.

Obama on Libya: Facts vs. reality and bipartisan hypocrisy

Contrary to President Obama's speech tonight, we have NO "responsibility to act" in Libya. We have no need to act, either.

And, in his speech, he failed to make his case. Didn't come close. Beyond the lack of need and responsibility to act, he didn't address a number of other issues.

Those include:
1. Mission creep, which has already happening and could gain a whole new phase with discussion of arming the Libyan rebels.
2. Why Libya and not, say, Yemen? (More on this below.)
3. What happens if the rebels, at current empowerment, can't dethrone Gadhafi?
4. What if the "days" stretch into "weeks"?
5. Will he ask, or does he think he will need to ask, for a supplemental funding appropriation? (And wouldn't the GOP like to attach that to the ongoing budget fight?)

That said, the GOP is already going partisan. Here's Texas Sejavascript:void(0)n. John Cornyn, saying what he never said in six years of Bush wars:
"When our men and women in uniform are sent into harm's way, Americans and troops deserve a clear mission from our commander in chief, not a speech nine days late," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee and head of the Senate Republicans' political arm.
So, while Obama may be a hypocrite (more on that below), your average GOPer has already demonstrated himself to be a bigger one.

Further analysis?

This AP fact check analysis has several good points, including and starting with the idea we're not likely to take a back seat within NATO. And, right, mission creep means our mission already isn't as narrow as Obama claimed in his speech. And, it's a flat lie from where I sit to claim this is a vital strategic interest. Finally, it's true that, contra Preznit Kumbaya, we've taken a blind eye to plenty of other countries' nefarrious actions against their own citizens, including ones like Ivory Coast on his watch.
In his pre-presidential book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama said the U.S. will lack international legitimacy if it intervenes militarily "without a well-articulated strategy that the public supports and the world understands."

He questioned: "Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?"

Now, such questions are coming at him.
Petard is cranking up.

Mission creep hits Libyan intervention

Gadhafi's forces have halted rebels' westward drive. In fact, they could well hurl them eastward again.

But, that's only temporary; mission creep is hitting again as Obama talks about arming the rebels. We've already had mission creep in redefining what it means to establish and enforce a no-fly zone. Now this.

Indeed, the justifications for expanding the air war have already proven to be somewhat controversial.

Now, some Republicans are opposing this just because Obama is in charge. Of course, GOP freshman will make the claim that they weren't around when Bush started wars without a Congressional vote, but I'm sure tea partier types would have supported the Bush warsw= anyway.

American anti-science is an OOPS on water vs. global warming

According to Gallup, Americans worry a lot about water supply (and safety), and not much about global warming, those two being at the top and bottom of their environmental worries.

Americans' anti-science attitude boomerang on themselves is what I take away. Apparently they're too stupid to recognize that, at least in some cases, water shortages are connected to global warming. Either that, or too stubborn, in many red-state cases. I'm smiling a little schadenfreude smile for people of Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, etc.

Four questions for Obama on Libya

Ross Douthat pretty much nails it, includ Defense Secretary Gates' comment that Libya isn't, in his opinion, a vital interest. World markets have already factoed its instability into oil prices, and otherwise, he's right.

So is Douthat with his four questions for Obama, really, four questions that Obama needs to answer to the nation.

I especially note that "mission creep" can include time creep as well as involvement creep. Douthat is right that having been in Libya a week already, Obama's claim that we'll be there days not weeks looks .. iffy, like many of his claims.

March 27, 2011

Pujols — fan bitterness? hypocrisy alert?

Albert Pujols is getting raked over the coals in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reader forum as to whether he's a "genuine Christian" based on how much he may, or may not, give to his own foundation and other Christian charities as a percentage of income.

Also interesting is the variety of Christian theologies readers bring to the table. There's the "success gosple," which says whatever Pujols makes is a sign of his being blessed by god. There's an old-fashioned social gospel, which says he has a moral duty to give generously. Then, there's a "prophetic voice" type Christianity, like, say, the book of Jeremiah, warning Pujols of failure to live up to a calling. And more.

Juan Cole still gets it wrong, or half-wrong, on Libya

In this "open letter to the left" supporting current (and possibly additional?) intervention in Libya, Cole has several things with which I disagree.

First, yes, the AP and other mainstream media may have overstated to some degree the amount of Islamists in the opposition. And, its of "al Qaeda" for Libyans who fought in Iraq may be a bit imprecise.

However, with those claims, I get the impression Cole is trying to sweep any concerns with the nature of the Libyan opposition under the rug. Even if "al Qaeda" is a wrong identifier, nonetheless, a number of fighters in the Iraq war are now back in Libya involved in the opposition. So, too, are other Islamists. It's interesting that after knocking down a semi-straw man, Cole doesn't provide his own actual guesstimates.

I get the impression that the bottom-line issue for Cole is the UN OK, or perhaps, in lieu of that, a NATO OK. After that, whenever it happens, he's OK with being a Wilsonian, realpolitik be damned.

Second, he doesn't further look at the opposition in other ways. How organized are they? How tribalist are they? How well are their leaders likely to be significantly better than Gadhafi?

Third, he erects other straw men as to why some in the left oppose, or at least question, U.S. intervention. Meanwhile, for we pragmatics of the left, he nowhere addresses concerns such as mission creep, exit strategy, funding, etc.

And, speaking of mission creep and NATO, supposedly it's now debating arming the rebels.

So, we've gone from enforcing no-fly zones to actively targeting Libyan artillery, whether anti-aircraft in specific or not, and now, arming rebeles whose cohesion or goals we're not even sure of is being discussed. Wunderbar.

And, way to go, Cole on the UN fig leaf. And, also, Massimo Pigliucci on the "just war" nonsense. Way to go both of you on not thinking this through.

Juan Cole still gets it wrong, or half-wrong, on Libya

In this "open letter to the left" supporting current (and possibly additional?) intervention in Libya, Cole has several things with which I disagree.

First, yes, the AP and other mainstream media may have overstated to some degree the amount of Islamists in the opposition. And, its of "al Qaeda" for Libyans who fought in Iraq may be a bit imprecise.

However, with those claims, I get the impression Cole is trying to sweep any concerns with the nature of the Libyan opposition under the rug.

One was Social Security IS in trouble

I had no idea, until reading this, that Medicare recipients had a "make good" payment from Social Security if the change in Social Security's COLA was not enough, by itself

One way Social Security IS in trouble

I had no idea, until reading this, that Medicare recipients had a "make good" payment from Social Security if the change in Social Security's COLA was not enough, by itself, to cover the annual rise in Medicare Part B premiums, which cover doctor visits and are paid for out of Social Security benefits.

First, this is obviously a robbing Peter to pay Paul issue, so it's dumb on that grounds.

Second, by shuffling off part of Medicare's problems onto Social Security, it hides some of Medicare's problems.

Third, it increases the likelihood politicians of BOTH parties will wrongly handle both Medicare and Social Security.

JournalismJobs caving to SEO world

Journalismobs.com is probably the nation's pre-eminent journailsm jobs bulletin board.

Unfortunately, it's throwing away that pre-eminence.

Two weeks ago? An ad for eHow.

Last week, I have just seen? An ad for the Examiner, and, worse yet, one deliberately trading off the "plight" of the HuffPuffers.

Three-party monte in Texas

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.

That said, the first link above says another way of slicing the GOP divide, speaking of Dewhurst being a suaver, more urbane Perry, is between urban and rural constituencies. In light of that, one of the state's two big urban conservative papers, the Morning Snooze, opines that the Texas House is cutting the 2012-13 budget too much. At the same time, the Snooze abdicates editorial responsibility by going Ronald Reagan in talking about looking for "government inefficiencies."