SocraticGadfly: 6/5/11 - 6/12/11

June 11, 2011

It's sad when secularists diss the First Amendment

For one thing, if freedom of religion is to include freedom from having other religions imposed upon us, the First Amendment, fully supported and upheld, is a vital legal and constitutional protection.

But, if secularists want to be selective about it, we have a problem.

Specifically, in this case, it's San Francisco's controversial initiative to ban circumcision — a ban that makes no exeeption for religiously-grounded circumcisions.

Ron Lindsay, executive director of Center for Inquiry, blogs against San Francisco's idea.

And, most of the 20-plus respondents ignore the religious idea.

Others claim that circumcision is so dangerous that the state has a compelling interest in trumping the First Amendment. (And, while any surgery is dangerous, this simply isn't true, in general, of circumcision.)

One or two argue the "pain trauma" angle, claiming a 3-day-old will be permanently harmed mentally by pain he will never remember.

Even non-Gnu Atheists are a bit out to lunch on this one, in many cases.

And, for those who want to selectively support First Amendment protections, I suggest you acquaint yourselves with "A Man for All Seasons," specifically, what More told Roper about the rule of law.

Even "real" liberals can be sellouts

Politico reports that folks like GLAAD and the NAACP just LOVE the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger and are talking it up to the FCC. Why?

Couldn't be all the cash that AT&T gives these folks, could it?

Salon notes that GLAAD has stood up to AT&T before ....


It seems to be kind of cozy, and in an ongoing way, at feeding at the corporate hog trough.

NO happy birthday: The WOD turns 40

If you're not a political junkie or a civil libertarian, you may not know that "WOD" stands for War on Drugs.

Charles Blow writes an excellent "birthday greeting" that should, but won't be, a requiem for the stupidity, racism, classism and more behind the WOD.

Just as politicians want never to be seen as soft in war, or the War on Terror, or other fake wars, ditto with the WOD.

Kofi Annan and George Schultz can admit it's failed, but not Barack Obama.

As Blow notes:
No need to put a human face on 40 years of folly when you can swaddle its inefficacy in a patchwork quilt of self-serving statistics.

And, while I don't agree with all of Cornel West's tirade, it's certainly understandable this is another reason for many black leaders to be disappointed in Obama.

June 10, 2011

Organic is NOT always better

Example? The massive German E coli outbreak appears to be from an organic bean sprouts farm.

Now, further testing is still needed to confirm this, but, it should lead us to recognize that being organic is no guarantee of food quality or safety.

#SarahPalin email diaries; Part 3 — Trig Palin's birth

Everybody and their uncle has wanted to know the facts behind Trig Palin's birth ever since Sarah Palin popped onto the national political scene.

Cathy Baldwin-Johnson

Now, thanks to diligent work of the crack Gadfly staff, we can tell you exactly that, with a diary-type email Palin sent to her doctor, Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson. In it, she describes why she had to get back to Wasilla and nowhere else for the birth.

(Note: The state of Alaska redacted some portions of the email, marked with XXX.)

Dear Cathy:

No, I probably shouldn't have made that trip back to Dallas. But, there was good money in speaking there, and Todd just doesn't get it on money at times. He has NO idea how much I really, really need so I can leave this dump of Wasilla behind.

But, there's no way I could risk having a baby there in Dallas.

I know you said that, besides the Down syndrome itself, Trig seemed healthy and a birth shouldn't have any complications. But, you never know.

The "Todd wanted the kid to be an Alaskan" is a good cover story, though.

Of course, now people are saying, why didn't I have the birth at Anchorage?

Well, as you know, and thank God you're my doctor and I can be confidential with you, any rumor that Todd isn't the father would be disastrous.

Beyond that, XXX and XXX's daughter, who has ALWAYS hated me — they absolutely couldn't know about this. Any rumor that XXX might be Trig's father could kill my image, and that in turn would mean no more public speaking! Plus, if I ever wanted to run for governor, or a Senate seat, it could be much harder with XXX against me.

In Dallas, it might not be a big deal. But, if the baby got blood typed in Anchorage, and somebody knew my type and Todd's, and XXX has a third blood type???

Oh, Cathy ....

Dear AP: Learn about s-apostrophe

How many Republican governors are there? (Other than beyond the easy joke of "one too many.")

There's more than one, therefore it's the Republican Governors' Association and NOT the Governor's Association, no matter how much Rick Perry would like to be a one-man kingdom.

And, the RGA (sorry, but NOT providing a link) doesn't use an apostrophe at all, so now we have AP both using bad grammar AND making an incorrect citation.


Texas GOP - hard-hearted even with more money

Texas Democratic state representative Donna Howard proposed an addendum to the state's education bill that would allow the comptroller to direct any NEW money that goes to the Rainy Day Fund, most likely from high oil prices, directly to education.

And conservative Rethuglicans tried to strip that out. Fortunately, they failed.

If anybody needed proof that the state legislature in Texas has about 50 Paul Ryans running around, this is it.

From the 'Duh, it's politics' department

Shock me that McKinsey, a consulting firm known for being worldwide apostles of neoliberalism, would politicize a non-study "study" of Obamacare to make it look like it will cause employers to drop health insurance policies.

Per TPM's original post, McKinsey claims:
"45 to 50 percent of employers say they will definitely or probably pursue alternatives to [Employer Sponsored Insurance] in the years after 2014. Those alternatives include dropping coverage, offering it through a defined-contribution model, or in effect offering it only to certain employees. More than 30 percent of employers overall, and 28 percent of large ones, say they will definitely or probably drop coverage after 2014."
But, that hasn't happened in Massachusetts with Romneycare.

Now, since McKinsey won't release the study details, will some leaker inside the company tell us who paid for it to be done?


The Wisconsin GOP is running fake candidates in the Democratic primaries for recalled GOP state senate candidates. Should Dems do the same? One group says yes.

I agree. But, Democrats generally anymore have no cojones, so, ain't likely.

#SarahPalin email diaries: Part 2

Here's the second in a series of Sarah Palin emails the crack Gadfly staff has uncovered:

Dear Department of Wildlife staffers:

Staff are hereby forbidden to use the phrase "aerial wolf shooting" or anything similar. I know that is what you do, but those socialist environmentalists are threatening to interrupt tourism there.

"Wildlife carrying capacity enhancement" is very good and has a nice bureaucratic ring to it.

"Moose protection" certainly sounds pro-wildlife.

"Species balance engineering" has a great scientific sound.

Please use one of these for our great state program of "un-American communistic predator control."

#SarahPalin email diaries: Part 1

I'll be posting excerpts from Sarah Palin's emails here as the crack Gadfly staff gets a chance to read through them.

Here's the first one.

Dear First Dude:

I'd love to fire that pesky lieutenant governor and name you as the replacement, complete with a government-issued First Snowmobile.

Unfortunately, as President Nixon once said about, you know, something or another, "It would be wrong."

I will make you my unofficial Super-Chief of Staff, though. And get you a snuggly snowman suit.

Polishing Geithner's apple, counting the lies

I just got around to reading the Post's suck-up piece on Tim Geithner.

Beyond being disgusted at him calling stimulus spending "sugar," the way others in the administration polish his apple is simply ridiculous.

That said, WHO the polishers are is no surprise:

Gene Sperling, talking about Timmy's experience in managing crisis.
Bill Daley, talking about how great he is in general.

Clintonista neoliberal retreads talking up a former Republican, than an independent, and the story doesn't say whether he's a registered Democrat today. (Of course, it's not like being a "registered Democrat" actually means anything.)

Walmart, lies, unionization

So, Walmart is OK with unions outside of the U.S. and Canada because employees want them? With the implication that they don't here?
Its employees are not unionized in the United States, where the retailer has become infamous for its staunch opposition to labor groups. Even in Canada, it closed a store after workers there organized. But in the United Kingdom, Wal-Mart touts a growing roster of union employees and has negotiated contracts with entrenched labor groups in Brazil and Argentina for decades.

“We recognize those rights,” said John Peter “J.P.” Suarez , senior vice president of international business development at Wal-Mart. “In that market, that’s what the associates want, and that’s the prevailing practice.”
The fact that WallyWorld is infamous for its staunch opposition to unionism illustrates clearly that ... its American employees want them!

Lying sacks of shit.

Even Lisa Jackson is lying about enviro issues

Within Team Obama, I don't really expect the truth from the Secretary of the Interior, Kenny Boy Salazar. But, as part of a general screed about the Obama Admin's bad environmental policies, David Sirota notes EPA Administrastor Jackson is claiming she's unaware of any proof fracking for natural gas has hurt groundwater supplies.

She's probably using both "unaware" and "prof" in very narrow senses in her mind, so that in Washington-speak, she can claim she's not lying! That's the Village for you.

Tricky Ricky moving closer to Prez run?

That's what Matt Lewis at Daily Caller reports.

I've noted in the recent past that Texas' huge budget deficit, the hard-hearted way in which it was closed, etc., AND Perry's rebukes from his own party from time to time, like questions over his economic development board, will quickly get plenty of play if he's running.

Lewis adds a couple more things:
If Perry does indeed jump in the race, GOP primary voters will likely be reminded of how conservatives were outraged when he signed an executive order in 2007, making Texas the first state in the nation to mandate Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccinations for sixth-grade girls. They will be reminded that he endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008. And, of course, his controversial plans to create a Trans-Texas Corridor (which were finally dropped after a large public outcry) would come up.
These will come up in the primaries, long before the general election. Other candidates seeking an in with tea partiers will HAVE to raise them to show Perry is a tea party panderer. (I'd love Bachmann and/or Palin to get into a knockdown/drag-out with Gov. Helmethair.) They, Cain and one or two others will have to raise them.

Second, if Perry jumps in, even though he'll be getting old aides back from Newt, he may be behind the curve on fundraising.

That all said, Lewis is right that he's near the top of the GOP charisma list, and he has a record as a winner.

But, if he wins the GOP nomination, things get more fun then.

There's the steel cage death match against Preznit Kumbaya. Perry's secession talk immediately becomes fodder, with an Obama quote something like this:
Now, Rick, if you wanted to secede from this country a few years ago, why do you want to run it now?
That's not enough? Here's more:
Education? We’re 50th in the nation in kids with a high school diploma by age 25, and 43rd in high school graduation rates. We’re 42nd in the nation in high school graduates going to college, and of those, only half earn a degree within six years.

Health care? We’re first in the nation in folks without health insurance and 49th in our low-income population covered by Medicaid.

Relative wealth? We’re fourth in the nation on the percentage of our residents living below the poverty line.

The environment? We’re first in the nation in cancer-causing carcinogens released into the air, first on toxic chemicals released into the water and first in the amount of hazardous waste generated.
Now, no other tea party types care about the environment or poverty, so these will probably be more general election issues, should the Trickster run and get the GOP nod.

A partial win for civil liberties vs Preznit Kumbaya

Alleged National Security Agency leaker Thomas Drake will plead guilty to one misdemeanor count as part of a lenient deal with our "constitutional law scholar" President, George Barack Obama.

The Post notes that all other charges will be dropped in the deal and Drake will serve no jail time. He also will pay no fines, and can get assessed no more than one year of probation.
“It’s an unambiguous victory for Drake,” said Jesselyn Radack, director of national security at the Government Accountability Project, who supported Drake on whistleblower issues. “The prosecution’s case imploded.”
As another commenter in the story notes, George Barack didn't have many tools.
“As a tool for prosecuting leakers, the Espionage Act is a broad sword where a scalpel would be far preferable,” said Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at American University. “It criminalizes to the same degree the wrongful retention of information that probably should never have been classified in the first place and the willful sale of state secrets to foreign intelligence agencies.”
Prediction? A bipartisan coalition of "serious adults" crafts a new law, or an addendum to the Patriot Act, that targets leakers in exactly that way. They will still be potentially criminalized as felons, but at a lower felony level.

Showing how weak the case was, Drake rejected two earlier plea offers from the constitutional law administration. The big deal was that the plea agreement removed references to classified information.

Prediction No. 2? The administration will NOT address cost overruns and other issues mentioned by Drake in the first place.

June 09, 2011

LBJ: A more talented C-Webb?

Still remembering Chris Webber's "What, me shoot?" deer in the headlights fourth quarter of Game 7 of those unforgettable 2002 Western Conference finals, when I read Bill Simmons' new column about LeBron James' meltdown(s) so far in this year's NBA Finals .... I thought of C-Webb.

And, while LBJ has arguably had more meltdowns .... none was as bad, IMO, as Webber's. In fact, I think that's why he called the "extra" timeout for Michigan in the NCAA title game: He absolutely, positively did not want that ball in his hands.

In hindsight, this is one of the biggest things that NBA scouts cannot find out about a player who wants to go straight from high school to the pros. The Cavs had no way of knowing how James would do under pressure.

Well, so far at least, now they do. And so do we.

Missing: White House solar panels

Barack Obama promised, when running for president, that he would put a more modern version of Jimmy Carter's solar panels atop the White House.

By spring 2011.

I guess he "forgot."

Per, you can remind him.

Or, per, we can be reminded that Obama will ask a competitiveness czar what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce thinks about this. And know that he will do nothing.

Foxes, henhouses, banksters, Obama and Dems

So, a former high-level honcho at Capital One, NOT Elizabeth Warren, could be Preznit Kumbaya's choice to head the consumer financial protection agency? Will everybody currently at Capital One know what's in our wallets? Will they all have to contribute to Obama's billion-dollar re-election? Will a former supremo at one of the more egregious companies for credit cards to high risk people actually regulate anything?

As for Date's nomination "tapping down controversy," no, the only "controversy" is over GOPers of the ilk of Bloomberg readers (the link); GOPers who don't like Elizabeth Warren.

Considering that Wall Street's best friend, Tim Geithner, is the man who told Kumbaya to stop worrying about the unemployed, probably not.

Meanwhile, Obama's neolib pea in a pod, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, is now working for Obama's arch-nemesis, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

#JoanWalsh - Civil War ignorant and gullible

She has a long, large book review post at Salon, with the central tenet of the book under review being that "Northern economic imperialism" was a large reason for the Civil War.

No, no, no!

Southern intransigence after losing control of one of the three branches of government, with fire-eaters ready to run with that, was the cause.

This has to be the worst thing Walsh has ever written at Salon, and she's had clunkers in the past.

With racists, Lost Causers, etc., already advocating crap like this, for her to favorably review such historically-revisionist bullshit is hugely wrong.

As for the "Civil War being a mistake"? Nope? Jim Crow, etc., were the fault of Reconstruction being a mistake for not being vigorous enough of long enough. Good fucking doorknob, Walsh is dumb.

Even when President Ulysses S. Grant tried to use the military to beat back white Southern paramilitary groups literally massacring African-Americans trying to execute basic rights, he couldn't, because soldiers were deployed out West in the new Civil War against Indians.
Did Grant, or his party, ever propose keeping the military budget higher to keep more troops in the South? No. Was that the fault of the Civil War? No.

And, ignorant about Lincoln:
And as a strict constitutionalist, Lincoln resisted abolitionism, because like it or not, the Constitution made room for slavery. The president disliked slavery, but his priority was the union. He famously told abolitionist Republican Horace Greeley (who later turned against Reconstruction and ran for president as a Democrat, abandoning African Americans as did too many other abolitionists): "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
She ignores that, in his next sentence, he says that if he could do it by freeing all the slaves, that would be his preference.

Beyond that, as his habeas corpus actions, even with Congress in session, show, he was NOT a "strict constitutionalist" either.

It's default of the Republicans

So, Paul Ryan says no big deal if we have a "short term default" on the national debt? And, other alleged paragons of GOP fiscal sanity, incluindg Mr. Fiat Money, Ron Paul, agree?

Yet the inside-the-Beltway press corps still treats these people as sensible grownups. (And, so does Preznit Kumbaya.)


It's clear this is ultimately just about politics, as is hwho takes credit for good j ob-creation months and passes blame for bad ones.

Weinergate rears its ugly head

While waiting to board a plane in Oakland, I noted that Rep. Anthony Weiner, D(umbass)-N.Y. had fessed up to the "We're No. 1" picture being his. (And yes, as in the header [that's three!] for this story, the bad puns write themselves.)

I also saw that this wasn't the only pic of him, nor sent to the only woman, and that his wife was preggers.

Several thoughts.

1. Since he did NOT "DM" this woman/women on Twitter, who besides Anthony Weiner has ever claimed he's that much of a techie as a Congresscritter?

2. This is probably NOT "conduct unbecoming a member of Congress," or bringing Congress into disrepute, per the Constitution. I'll bet 10 percent of male MCs, and 5 percent of females, have had affairs since their first election to Congress. After all, national research shows about half of married American men and one-third of women will have at least one extramarital affair.

3. The Dems aren't the religious right party, so, unlike with shirtless Chris Lee on the GOP side, there isn't a hypocrisy issue.

4. But, speaking of that ... Dems could and should rightfully resign for all sorts of serious hypocrisy, like supporting Obama's war on civil liberties after calling Bush out, claiming to be for the working man, yet supporting a crappy recovery program by a weak-kneed, compromising president, etc.

5. And, speaking of both Nos. 3 and 4, per the link above, there is an arrogance issue too. Whether it's the "don't you know who I am" or whatever, I thnk Weiner types think they can just plow ahead.

The 'full TSA' - almost the 'full Monty'

The Transportation "Security" Agency folks gave me the body frisk plus the chemical swabs of my carry-on stuff Saturday as I flew out of Midland, Texas. They double-teamed me during swabbing time, even, with a second TSAer asking me all these profiling questions. (There's no backscanners in a small airport like this — yet.)

Second, frustration at backed-up lines, especially being behind a bunch of first-time fliers, is NOT the same emotional expression as nervousness, you inaccurately profiling numbnuts.

Second, as far as profiling questions, I've been through Border Patrol checkpoints more than two dozen times. I'm plenty used to stuff like that.

Third, let's call this Reason No. 741 not to vote for our "constitutional law scholar" preznit.

June 08, 2011

Now easier to read on cell phones!

Blogger has created a mobile-device friendly version of blog pages, and that's now enabled for this blog.

June 05, 2011

Maybe it's time to start being kinder to ourselves

Probably originating in 12-Step groups, I have heard plenty of admonitions, chidings and warnings in various locales in life about "pity pots" and "pity parties."

But, some new psychological research says that maybe we need to stop worrying so much about "pity parties" and instead have more concern about how kind we are to ourselves.

A LOT more concern, including learning it as a top-level life skill.

This is NOT the "give every kid an A to boost self esteem," the study makes clear. In fact, it notes that that technique often backfires, and can lead to neuroticism, emotional fragility and narcissism.

"It is not this nimby, bimby stuff," said Paul Gilbert, a researcher at Kingsway Hospital in the United Kingdom. "Compassion is sensitivity to the suffering of self and others and a commitment to do something about it."

Kristin Neff, an associate professor of psychology and the mother of an autistic child, writes about cultivating self-compassion from her own parenting experience as well as her professional background, in the just-published book, "Self-Compassion."

She lists three aspects to it: mindfulness, common humanity and kindness.

Mindfulness, whether done as a full meditative practice or not, is as Neff describes it, accepting emotions without either suppressing/blocking them OR fixating on/attaching to them.

Common humanity is, to riff on another old phrase from "the other folks," recognizing that our hurts and pains aren't "terminally unique" either.

And, kindness is kindness to ourselves as well as others.

The LiveScience authors go on to note that self-esteem of the type I stereotypically mentioned above still have a competitive and comparative element to it. Self-kindness does not.

And, speaking of competitiveness, other researchers, the story notes, believe that as the pace of modern Western life accelerates, self-punishment will likely increase.

But, won't being kind to ourselves a lot lead to a temptation to "let ourselves off the hook"? No, but that's been anticipated too:

(A)ccording to Neff, the most common fear about becoming self-compassionate is that it will lower performance standards and encourage laziness. But researchers have found that self-compassionate people are actually less likely to sit on the couch all day eating bonbons.
So, lighten up. Especially on yourself. And let's encourage each other on this.