SocraticGadfly: 9/11/11 - 9/18/11

September 17, 2011

Dear O: why not just repeal the Obama tax cuts?

President Barack Obama is now trotting out what's being given the PR moniker the "Buffett Rule," after Warren Buffett noting his secretary has a higher tax rate than he does. (Note that St. Warren of Omaha said bupkis about corporate tax rates, though.)

Dear Leader: Rather than trot out a new PR talking point while either not having any detailed plan yet (per Ron Suskind's new book, that would be totally unsurprising) or else while hiding what plan you have because you know it, too, is bupkis, why not just push now to repeal the Bush Obama tax cuts? You know, the ones you could have repealed last December if you really cared? 

That said, let's see if Dear Leader actually does something radical, like proposing to tax hedge fund fees like general income.

Also, the WSJ story compares the rollout of the "Buffett Rule" to the "Volcker Rule." Reality? Nearly two years later, we're not yet at its actual implementation; besides, speaking of hedge funds, it's riddled with loopholes anyway. Those loopholes include insurance agencies. Gee, wasn't AIG one of those?

A forced patriotic mandate ... only the GOP

It is a funded mandate, but Constitution Day is a forced mandate, Kent Greenfield notes. Shock me that the GOPers in Congress got that done, and use the once-to-have-been-abolished Department of Education to do so:
Since 2005, by Congressional mandate, all educational institutions receiving federal funds — from preschools to universities, whether public or private — are required to provide relevant educational programming to observe the occasion.
 So, does that make it unconstitutional? Greenfield says that's at least arguable.
Ironically, Constitution Day is probably unconstitutional. One liberty the Constitution protects is the right of individuals and institutions not to applaud it. The laudable message that Congress wanted to send — our Constitution should be celebrated — is muddled by its method of mandatory commemoration. The mandate violates the academic freedom of the targeted institutions.
As for the option of turning down federal funds, Greenfield notes most schools can't afford to do that.

Beyond that, there's all the other issues. Riffing on the Pledge of Allegiance, Greenfield says:
(M)andatory patriotism is corrosive even if accomplished bit by bit. ... Rote patriotism is made even worse when citizens of other countries are also socialized to believe in the exceptionalism of their own nations.
Well put, well put. That said, conservatives have never met a version of coercive patriotism they don't like. Red Scare? Check? War on Terror? Check. Using a cheesed-up acronym to call a spy bill the Patriot Act? Check.

That all said, I'm surprised Grover Norquist hasn't pushed for this "stick" to be used to make Ronald Reagan Day a national holiday. Or that Rudy Giulani wasn't trotted out to do the same for "9/11 Day."

LibDems have no balls

I'm reading The Guardian's live blogging of the annual party conference of the Liberal Democratic Party, and that's my No. 1 takeaway.


If the Lib Dems really wanted to be a third way, rather than David Cameron's lapdogs, they would fire Nick Clegg as party leader, and end coalition, either by that act alone, or having the new leader bring a no-confidence vote to the Commons.

The voting reform referendum massively failed, and had Conservatives semi-officially opposing it. Meanwhile, the Lib Dem half of the coalition, from what I see across the pond, has failed to modify or soften a single major Tory initiative.

Power corrupts, eh?

Palin and NYT deserve each other

So, the New York Times thinks Joe McGinniss "chases caustic, unsubstantiated gossip.” That's to the Times' detriment, not McGinniss', as it apparently thinks the world still revolves around it, and that if it refuses to follow up on multiply-reported accounts of the Brad Hanson affair, it can keep claiming it's gossip. It's also laughable, at best, hypocritical at worse, for the Old Gray Lady to chastise him for using anonymous sources. And, if it's "easily available to anyone with Internet access," then why didn't the NYT report more of this itself? Or is the "readily available" only the non-"unsubstantiated"? (Paging Judith Miller, paging Judith Miller!)

Reality? Palin had every opportunity to sue the National Enquirer three years ago, when it broke the story. Even as a "public figrue," with the higher bar on libel,  if the story was false, it would have been an easy win for her. "Silence gives assent," you know.

Ultimately, Janet Maslin's review, by turns tut-tutting, vaguely elitist/snooty, chiding and "inside New Yorkish" ... "yentas" in Palinville? ... says more about her and her paper than about McGinniss. (Of course, speaking of affairs, there's been "unsubstantiated gossip about Miller and Scooter Libby, and about NYT publisher Punch Sulzberger, too ... just saying)

Speaking of, Politico notes the Times' review violated a publisher's embargo. Niccceee ... hypocrisy and self-righteousness together. It also reminds us how it's not the first time the Times has shown Palin some love. And, I remember that nutbar column from the Aspen Institute person; it showed what was wrong with two institutions at the same time.

Next, the Times will probably offer her a guest columnist job.

Having now read and reviewed McGinniss' book, I see the NYT protests WAYYYYY too much. Reality? This is a solid book; everything the Times calls "gossip" actually, per the legal profession, "goes to motive," to establish Palin's character and personality.

That said, given what he says about her and her parents, I wouldn't be surprised if there were sexual abuse in her background, given that she may well be manic-depressive, have a love-hate attitude about sexuality, and may be anorexic and/or bulimic.

I also learned why the Anchorage Daily News never really followed up on Trig birth issues or other things. It's either had its collective head buried  deep up her ass for a long time, or else it, too, is afraid of her.

And, speaking of .... I think the Trig birth questions that McGinniss brings up are the "gossip" that the NYT abhors. And, McGinniss has a new answer to this: Palin filed to adopt a Down's baby in order to become a symbol for anti-abortion radicals. She had to hightail it back to Mat-Su Regional Hospital from Dallas because the adoption finalized early. It makes as much sense as anything.

That said, Sam Tanenhaus looks more critically at the "art of book promotion," in the NYT's Sunday op-ed pages.

And, he notes there's what may well be a better "Palin has no clothes" book already out there. “The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power" may be much better, tis true. It's half again as long, and more thoroughly researched yet than McGinniss. From an Amazon reader:
Given the amount of material covered by this book, it is very well structured, and moves along compellingly. Dunn manages to overlap many layers of events in a way that doesn't compromise overall coherency or readability.

Even though there were few novelties for the tiny minority of truly seasoned Palin-watchers, Dunn reveals many bombshells which have--inconceivably--not gotten mainstream play in the slightest, including destructive behaviors which intentionally undermined the McCain/Palin campaign (or "Palin/McCain" campaign, as Sarah would have it).
I don't know how I missed this boo. I'll have to take a look at it perhaps in the future.

#RickPerry: I was for TARP b4 I was against it

Ohhhhh, this ought to be a fun one. A conservative Iowa radio news/talk show host sent a reporter to ask Perry about why he apparently supported TARP in 2008 . And he denied it, and she pressed him.

And now, the fun gets funner. West Virginia's pseudo-Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, the governor of the Mountaintop Removal State in 2008, claims the letter he and Perry co-sent to Congress then was only urging that Congress do something and wasn't designed to support TARP . Considering Manchin is almost as big a general liar and snake-like politician in particular as Tricky Ricky, this of course carries no water. If Perry somehow gets the GOP nod, I have no doubt Manchin will officially endorse him.

Here is the original AP story on the letter. Given that TARP was coming up for a second vote that night, that GOP partisanship had sunk the original version, and both Bush and biz leaders were specifically urging passage of TARP, it's clear Perry and Manchin are lying like hell.

And, tea partiers hate TARP even mre than illegal immigration, so this could be a problem. Unless Perry recovers fast, this helps Bachmann a LOT. Romney, not much. He's not insane enough to attack TARP. Pizza Man Cain, Ron Paul and "I'm So Sexy for My Name" Santorum may pick up tea partier bits and pieces, depending on how they push this issue AND try to find any leverage with Bachmann.

Palin? She's out, due to Joe McGinness' book; per my review, many tea partiers won't accept her having a fling with a black man (sorry, Pizza Man Cain). That's even worse than snorting coke or cheating on your hubby.

So, we're kind of back at the place where it might be Romney's election to lose. Or, where there's still a hankering for somebody new to enter the race, as late as it is in terms of how today's political world operates.

September 16, 2011

Updating T.S. Eliot's "Hippopotamus" - "The Hippocampus"

Updating TS Eliot, on the hippocampus and fearmongering. I kept in the "god" references so I didn't have to edit more, to change more rhymes, but I was actually thinking more of secular fearmongering such as the "War on Terror."

The broad-backed hippocampus
Rests on its axis in the brain;
Although it seems so firm to us
It is hard to explain.
Flesh-and-blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Fear can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo's feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Fear need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The 'campus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Fear from over sea.

At mating time the hippo's voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Fear, at being one with God.

The hippocampus's day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way --
The Fear can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the 'campus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr'd virgins kist,
While the True Fear remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

#RickPerrysTexasMiracle climbs to 8.5 percent

For the third month in a row, Texas unemployment has risen. I guess while he was praying for rain, Rick Perry forgot to pray for jobs. And, most interestingly, the increase is worse in rural areas. All major metropolitan areas are flat or better.

And, you want to know why? State education cuts. All those small-town school districts are hurting. As are the small towns where the schools, the city hall, and maybe the county courthouse, if it's a county seat, are the top three employers. That's the bulk of the nearly 9,400 government job losses, I'm guessing. Those small-town teachers.

I'll give you 2-1 odds unemployment in Texas goes at least 0.1 percent higher before the end of the year.

2 many libs "project" their mentality on conservatives

Whether it's Chris Mooney thinking that conservative climate change denialists should be easy to convert to a Harvard Divinity School attendee really thinking that many conservative Christians operate on a love first, not a fear first (or anger or hate first), understanding of God, or whether it's Barack Obama in December 2010 thinking that John Boehner and other GOPers wouldn't hold the budget hostage to the national debt ceiling, I see a certain stripe of liberals do this time after time: Assume that conservatives think the same way, have their thought processes motivated the same way, and more.

Mooney, at least, even knows better. He's written before about "authoritative" reasoning styles and conservative-liberal thinking differences.

Obama has no excuse for not knowing better, if he doesn't.

And, liberal religionists? As I said on Google Plus, ever since hell came into the monotheistic theology workbook, fear, or better, a fear/anger/hatred mix, has pretty much always been the main driver of many religious conservatives. I really don't see that having changed today. Now, is it the primary driver, both from their own emotions, or what emotional drivers they see in their view of god, for all conservative religionists? No. But, in the monotheistic tradition, if you take hell literally, and don't try to spin it like C.S. Lewis as unbelivers' self-divorce from god, it has to be at least part of your emotional makeup.

Beyond that? The same people who reject evolution also reject the evolution of religious ideas. 

Let's look further at the fear/anger/hate mix. I think this, and the conservative/liberal difference, do relate in part to the Big Five personality issues, while I add that not all liberals or conservatives divide neatly. Especially on the "neuroticism" issue, if a milder form of that is simple "pessimism," I think I am far and away from being the only pessimistic liberal.

Speaking of ... we're in a fear-inducing time right now. More below the fold. 

Partisanship fights democratic ideas

And this time, it's Democrats who are being partisan.

Frankly, I think it would be great if Pennsylvania joined Nebraska and Maine and gave only it's two "senatorial" electoral votes to the statewide winner and apportioned its "representative" electoral votes by winner of the territory covered by each Congressional district. Yes, the Pennsylvania state senate leader and governor are pushing this, at the same time as the GOP majority is drawing up Congressional districts, but ... if blatant gerrymandering has a racial fallout (and with Pennsylvania having multiple major cities, this can happen), then the Congressional reapportionment can be fought in court.

Here's the allegedly "partisan" angle by the GOP:
One Pennsylvania-based Republican consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity because he has clients on both sides of the controversy, noted that a Republican presidential candidate has only carried Pennsylvania once in the past 25 years, in 1988. He thinks that's likely to remain the pattern for years to come.

Since Democratic presidential candidates will usually win the state, switching to a Maine-Nebraska system would help the GOP over the long term. “From a strictly partisan point of view, we are going to benefit,” he said.
At the same time, as the story notes, when Colorado looked more on the reddish than bluish side of purple, Democrats were pushing for the same deal.

Reality? Nebraska's state government is officially nonpartisan, with a unicameral legislature. Maine has a strong degree and history of independent, even third-party, voting. Those conditions don't exist elsewhere very much. Iowa comes to mind as a state where Maine and Nebraska ideas would duplicate more easily.

That said, I like the idea in general. It potentially increases voter participation, and in a state with rural as well as metropolitan swing districts, forces candidates to get outside major TV markets.

Because of that, it also has the potential to take a small edge off money in politics.

And, in a place like Pennsylvania (or Maine, or Iowa) might open the door to third-party or independent presidential candidates, whom both halves of the bipartisan duopoly would call "spoilers."

So, for that reason alone, it's worth touting.

Methinks Carville doth protest 4 Obama too much

And so does Glenn Greenwald. He notes that, of seven adjectival phrases James Carville hurls at Republicans, four apply, at least to some degree, to Dear Leader, too.

And, beyond that, while Obama isn't a global warming denier, or even a minimalist, he doesn't consider it that serious. He never considered carbon taxes, and barely lifted a finger to help any cap-and-trade legislation before running away.

So? He's at least halfway Republican, if not more so! And, given the "no respect for life" issue, at least in other countries, that's why my poll at right legitimately asks if he's a neocon.

The soullessness of Pat Robertson

The flippant part of me says, "Hey, Christians, how's the shoe feel pinching the other foot," now that the the evangelical leader has pissed off Christians now with his comment that it's OK to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer's.

But, the more serious part of me wants to riff on Pat's "soullessness," per the header. And, I don't mean his hard-heartedness, I mean his soullessness, metaphysically speaking.

Obviously, he undermines every utterance he has made about human life beginning at conception and every utterance he has made opposing euthanasia even when the ailing person wants that. Because Pat Robertson has now said what many a secularist naturally accepts, and something over which liberal Christians wrestle: that human life, the quality of human life, and the humanness of that human life derive from human mental functioning.
His co-host pressed Robertson about whether that violates the marriage vows. Robertson responded that Alzheimer's "is a kind of death" and added, "I certainly wouldn't put a guilt trip on you" for choosing divorce in such a scenario.
Oh, Pat's going to try to put this cat back in the bag, not just for wanting to get past pissing off Christians, but because he knows the barn door that he's opened. And, it's too late.

And, this thing about bending marriage vows goes back 500 years. Martin Luther told a German prince that it was OK to commit bigamy.

Pat's still a hypocrite; that hasn't changed. But, the old "blind hogs and acorns" line rings true here.

September 15, 2011

Anti-unemployed bill will solve nothing

I don't know whether President Barack Obama's push, in the American Jobs Act, to ban want-ad discrimination against the long-term unemployed, is more naivete, cluelessness about how the online job applications process works today (this from Preznit Technology Pusher) or political posturing.

I totally agree that this is a real problem. But, Obama's solution is a non-solution, as far as real-world practicality.

Large and medium companies don't have an HR person look at our Word document resumes any more. Instead, we upload it on their browser, where add-on software like Taleo or ICIMS parses it out. So, short of outright lying (hey, list volunteer work as a job, and be creative about your "volunteerism," if needed), a bill prohibiting want ads from saying "no unemployed need apply" will help nothing. Long-term unemployed will still get filtered out by medium and large companies, and even smaller ones.

Oh, sure, you could write a very detailed and specific bill, targeting not just ads, but human and software filtrations, too. But, how are you going to enforce that one? Really. And, if you do think of a way to enforce it, what penalties are you going to attach to it?

Frankly, I'd rather have it as it is now, and see the ugly "honesty"of Social Darwinism in the light of day than be hidden away.

Now, what can be done that has more potency, and is more realistic at the same time?

1. Those tax credits for hiring unemployed? Why not target them to hiring of long-term unemployed?
2. Many of the longer-term unemployed are older. Start bringing federal age discrimination investigations, which might discourage companies from firing these folks in the first place. Add in the threat of the Department of Justice automatically filing an amicus brief on any age discrimination suit brought by an older worker recently shown the door.

3. If the longer-term unemployed really have lost skills, then give on-the-job training tax credits to companies that hire them, too.

Nos. 1 and 3 have more of a carrot than the Obama bill offers. No.2 swings a bigger stick.
As for the options above, I suspect Preznit Kumbaya is naive/clueless more than posturing on his original bill. But, what the hell. Contact the White House and tell him the truth. Offer alternatives, whether mine or yours.

At the same time, there's the economic wingnuts at Reason, who mock a "long-term unemployed activist" by asking if "unemployee" is going to become a new job title. While you're at it, you can email Tim Cavanaugh about that stupidity. (And, it's stuff like this that keeps me from going to Reason as a civil liberties source.)

#MitchDaniels, ingnuts bring McCarthyism to debt

It appears Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (he who helped oversee the creation of much federal debt as Bush's OMB director) is using the phrase in his new book, "Keeping the Republic" (Safe for Rich, Crony Capitalsim Republicans) but wingnut Mona Charen, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan when HE oversaw the creation of so much federal debt, isn't shy about parroting it.
Reviving the private sector must be the highest priority until the "Red Menace" of debt is tamed, Daniels argues.
And, since only Democrats increase our deficit, they're obviously the creator of the "Red Menace."

After all, per the Wiki link for Gov. Eli Lilly, we have this:
During his time as the director of the OMB, Bush referred to him as "the Blade," for his noted acumen at budget cutting. The $2.13 trillion budget Daniels submitted to Congress in 2001 would have made deep cuts in many agencies to accommodate the tax cuts being made, but few of the spending cuts were actually approved by Congress.
That was with a GOP House and a GOP Senate (pre-Jeffords defection). So, some "blade," eh?

Gov. Mitch the Red Menace!

That said, expect to see more of this "Red Menace" claim, with more denialism by wingnuts of how the GOP created much of it, as in Medicare Part D, wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, unnecessary tax cuts, etc. Or, as in the case of financial dereg (though this was very bipartisan) created the conditions that eventually led to additional federal debt. Add in the third part of the denialism, that people like Bush weren't "real conservatives." Funny how the wingnuts have so enshrined St. Ronald the Debt-Virtuous that nobody's thrown the "not a real conservative" epithet at him.

#ChrisMooney and the axes of motivated reasoning

Having blogged yesterday about how I believe Chris Mooney misread Brendan Nyhan into the relative ease, or difficulty, of "converting" climate change denialists, I went to bed last night thinking something like this:

Chris has written before about the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals, including the commonly accepted one that conservatives prefer the tried and true, while liberals are more open to novelty and new experiences. Does he not realize this might mean they have different styles of motivated reasoning, and will "need" different "conversion tactics" than liberals engaged in motivated reasoning might need?

Lo, and behold, in his first post for ScienceProgress, he writes on something tangential to that, but ... doesn't extend his thinking far enough. He blogs about a survey, based on Meyers-Briggs types (while noting caveats about the MBTI which I agree with) between ... not conservatives and liberals, but scientists and the general public.

The title was promising: "Could Personality Differences Help Explain the Reality Gap on Climate Change?" Unfortunately, while he draws some right ideas, he's looking at only one set of research, and that on scientists vs. general public, not liberals vs. conservatives. 

He says:
My bottom line is that it is promising. I’m sure there are significant personality gaps between the average scientist and the average American (it would be shocking if there were not), and that these do indeed impair communication. So this study was long overdue.
Replace "scientist" and "general public" with "liberal" and "conservative" and, Chris either has the blog post he should have written, or has his assignment for his next one. After all, the research is out there. And, the logical leap is simple.

My take is that liberals and conservatives do engage in different types of motivated reasoning, and respond favorably, or unfavorably, to different avenues of persuasion. To the degree liberals are more open to new experience, their motivated reasoning is likely to be more open to external persuasion, whereas conservatives will have to internalize ideas much more. That means their persuasion period will take longer and be more dependent on "tribal" changes around them being more incorporated into their worldview.

Now, Chris, let's see you write about that.

Update: Well, now he's getting closer. He has another post at ScienceProgress noting a new survey which says better political knowledge among people disposed toward authoritarian thinking is more likely translated into political conservativism.

In other words, the relationship between political conservatism and authoritarianism should be stronger among those who develop political sophistication—e.g., by consuming a lot of political news (in this case, perhaps from Fox News, listening to Rush Limbaugh, etc).

This is likely to have big implications for those of us who care about ensuring scientific accuracy on issues like climate change and evolution.

Authoritarians, as explained in this book, tend to be “less likely to change their way of thinking when new information might challenge their deeply held beliefs.” So if engaging in politics and learning more about it activates their ideological tendencies, then we can expect these authoritarian sophisticates (no oxymoron!) to be among the hardest people around to convince of anything, regardless of the facts of the matter. (Because, again, being more sophisticated often makes you even more biased in favor of your preexisting views.)
So, in light of the last sentence of that pull quote, Chris, will you rethink your interpretation of Brendan Nyhan, including what seems to be your pre-existing views on how easy it is to convince denialists, even with "pretty pictures"?

September 14, 2011

Perry, Bachmann and Merck ... and Mammon as god

Gail Collins has a good column (why isn't she writing more?) on how Michele Bachmann is largely off base on the Merck/Gardisil vaccine deal, other than, of course, the $30K Merck gave Tricky Ricky.

She then notes, near the end, Tricky's support, strong support, of abstinence-only sex ed.

Well, Tricky Ricky, if you really believe that, if you really oppose talking even about condoms, then why do young girls NEED a Gardisil vaccination? If you're 100 percent sure abstinence-only sex ed works, period, end of story, why do young girls NEED a Gardisil vaccination?

Oops. Just one more internal contradiction of Rick Perry. Or, yet just another example of how, like many alleged Christian rightist political and social leaders, there's no contradiction between worshiping Mammon and God because Mammon is their God.

Of course, about no other Republican in the race can make that charge against Perry because they're guilty of it, too. Bachmann and hubby make money off alleged gay-to-straight conversions; they don't do their twisted version of "the Lord's work" for free. Jon Huntsman? Good Mormonism didn't stop Marriott from pay-per-view porn in its hotel rooms. Mitt Romney surely wasn't that clueless about the bribery that brought those Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. Ron Paul? Celebrating the capitalism that lets a former staffer die at 49 because of lacking health insurance says enough there about his true God. Ditto for most the other GOP.

The one true libertarian in the GOP race, Gary Johnson, is the one candidate who could honestly level that charge against not only Perry, but all the rest. Too bad he's not getting more airplay.

The problem? The Success Gospel, which really is, at bottom line, the Social Darwinist Gospel. Didn't get that new job? Your faith must not be strong enough. And, actually, a more extreme version would say, "God knew that job would be wasted on you, like the man who buried the one talent, and gave it to somebody else instead."

That said, can most Democrats do much better? As long as Democratic presidents and other national leaders play me-too-ism on things like faith-based initiatives, the answer is no. As long as black Democratic support is centered in black churches, many of which loudly preach their own versions of the Success Gospel, the answer is no.

#StlCards: Does Carpenter signing help or hurt #Pujols staying?

First, let me say I like the deal the St. Louis Cardinals made with Chris Carpenter. Rolling his $11 million option year for 2012 into a two-year, $21M deal provides stability and depth on the pitching staff as the Birds wait to see how well Adam Wainwright comes back next year. And, given the shakiness of Jaime Garcia, the crappiness of Jake Westbrook and other issues, the pitching staff could use both stability and depth.

Also, it lets the team boot either Westbrook or Kyle Lohse out of the rotation. Or trade whichever one has more trade value.

As ESPN notes, this deal also impacts the possibility, or likelihood of resigning Albert Pujols, and also, to a degree, Lance Berkman.

And, ESPN is thinking on the lines of what I did this spring, when Fat Elvis was picked up. The team could decide not to pay big for The Machine and move Berkman to 1B. That assumes the team guesstimates a possible fanbase hit, in terms of ticket sales, would be less than a Pujols contract hit.

But, with Pujols making a hard late push to continue his .300/30 HR/100 RBI streak of years, the "he's washed/washing up" argument appears out the door, vs., at least in part, the "he was pressing" part. Don't forget, he was possibly not only trying to prove himself contract worthy, but pick up the slack of the team missing Wainwright.

Beyond the ticket sales vs. contract financials of a popular face, assuming the Cards don't re-sign Pujols and at the same time don't pull a Kansas City and sit on all the money, who do they add? The middle-infield free agent crop is iffy, and that's the biggest need besides more good pitching arms.

The Birds could, I guess, make a run at theoretically mid-priced Jimmy Rollins, if they don't re-sign Pujols. And, if they don't, even if they do re-sign Berkman, I don't think that's enough to halfway mollify the fan base, or, even with the Brewers facing their own free agent issues, to be "content" in the NL Central.

Or maybe the Cards can spend money on getting a better manager than Tony the Pony. I totally agree with ESPN's "overmanaging" assessment.

Speaking of, the Chicago Sun-Times' reporting of what is more wishful thinking, even, than rumor is interesting, namely, the idea that the Cubbies will try to sign the triumvirate of former Cards' GM Walt Jocketty, followed by Pujols and La Russa, is interesting. To you Cubs fans: Two out of three wouldn't be bad.

Jocketty, overall, was better than John Mozeliak is now, for a number of reasons. One of them is that he wasn't as much a La Russa pushover as Mo is. And, he was a good GM overall. Assuming Theo Epstein and Billy Beane aren't magically available (and how dumb is it, in his case with the A's, for ownership to give a GM an ownership stake?) it would be hard to do better than Jocketty. For bolstering the lineup and the fan base, it would be hard to do better than Pujols.

You can do better than La Russa, though. Giving Quade another year's chance would be better. Beyond the over-managing, Cubs fans, you'd probably get a twist on Lou Pinella, an elderly manager who burns out after a couple of years.

#ChrisMooney: Get real about #AGW denialists

Chris Mooney claims nice graphs and other graphics will convince climate change deniers that they're wrong.

No, really. He makes it sound like a "conversion process" would probably be relatively simple.

Were DeSmog Blog insightful enough to have hired me, I would have written a far different post than his, titled: "New Research Says Motivated Reasoning May Not Always Be Easy to Overcome" and subhead "Self-Affirmation Can Inoculate Against Cognitive Dissonance." That's what took away from Brendan Nyhan's paper, which (linked below) was the basis for Mooney's post.

And, here's my take on what he should have written Sept. 14, and could have written at Science Progress Sept. 15, had he thought through connecting dots better, on the differences in motivated reasoning styles and motivators between conservatives and liberals. (Let's hope that Chris, with the platform he has, gets around to writing the post he should, with the knowledge he has to do so.)

Reality? Chris, like many a liberal who's not been "mugged by reality," to use the old cliche, I think has the idea that liberals and conservatives .... despite what he's written elsewhere ... have the same styles of motivated reasoning. And, they don't.

It's yet another example of how he's sometimes politically clueless while actually having a good grasp of global warming issues. He'd be a good Preznit Kumbaya lieutenant, with such beliefs about how easy it is to convert people, or conservatives in particular, from bad motivated reasoning.

In other words, Mooney himself is "pulling a Mooney," as I call it, trying to justify his own motivated reasoning.

And, yes, that may come off as a bit harsh, but ... this is also a person who praises Democrats for being better than the GOP at working with big business. (Sorry, Chris, but it "goes to motive" on political realities vs. your very good grasp of the science issues.)

The reality? Denialists will incorporate the information about global surface temperatures and then ... minimize the "anthropogenic" in AGW. In other words, you might get a denialist to become a minimalist, but, how much gain is that. If Chris didn't think of that, then he's not thinking that deeply. If he did, and rejected it, well, then his own reasoning is obviously "motivated."

There's plenty of reasons to confirm this, and at least partially undermine Mooney's optimism, in Brendan Nyhan's 56-page PDF upon which Mooney bases his post; And, I can say more that  Mooney's take on it ... and perhaps Nyhan himself, have other problems, too.

First, Nyhan says himself that his study focused only on temperature change, not the "anthropogenic," at least as far as stimuli, i.e, the graph at the top of this blog. Per page 34, body text of the PDF:
Since our stimuli only concern temperature change (and not the role of humans in causing it), we restrict our attention to the predicted probabilities that respondents will agree that “Global warming is just a theory” in Figure 4.

It's true, as I now see on the third reading of Mooney's post, that he does acknowledge that ... three-quarters of the way through the blog post. Given that this caveat undermines the strength of the claims of your whole blog post, as does another issue, immediately below, shouldn't you have been more upfront about this? I certainly think you should have.

Second, on body text page 4 of the Nyhan PDF is this:
However, unlike previous studies, we find little evidence that affirmation increases the persuasive power of corrective information.
In other words, the other-affirmation that Mooney touts isn't that powerful. (More on this below the fold.)

Followed by this a few pages later:
Individuals who encounter dissonant information that is threatening are thus motivated to restore their feelings of self-worth; resolving the dissonance directly is just one of many ways that this goal can be accomplished. Steele supports this claim with a series of experiments showing that individuals who completed an exercise in which they affirmed personally important values and thereby felt secure in their self-worth did not engage in dissonance reduction, suggesting that their need to do so had been eliminated.
(That's my emphasis within the pull quote.) In other words, rather than getting affirmation from a "scientific elitist," a John/Jane Doe can "pull a Stuart Smalley" and say, "I'm smart enough to have resisted such elitism." Nyhan goes on to add that the self-affirmation process can be contingent on personal or situational relevance.

So, the "attaboy" part of Chris' post ... has no "affirmation" from Nyhan. Rather, Nyhan makes very nuanced and very conditional claims, which Mooney simply doesn't note. (And, this part of Mooney's blog post gets back to what I see of political "naivete" from him on other issues.)

But, that's not the only issue with Mooney's post. Also, within Nyhan's generally great research, we may need to read further between the lines. More below the fold.

September 13, 2011

Dear Obama; Instead of cutting Medicare

Which you clearly want to do, and which both your Catfood Commission and the debt supercommission want to do even more of ...

Revisit Obamacare. Cut out a variety of corporate tax deductions in the medical world. Raise the maximum income subject to FICA tax. Do something to prove you're even close to actually being liberal.

And, this news from California shows that Obamacare, as well as the health care system it purports to fix, is broken.

And that's the bottom line. When a car has a blown engine, you don't pour new oil in that engine and crank it up again. You replace the engine.

Unless you're a neoliberal currying favor with Valvoline, to extend the analogy. And, that's exactly what Obama did with Obamacare. He bought a bunch of Valvoline from Big Pharma and poured it into a broken engine.

If necessary, you do so to forestall more radical action, like people saying the entire car needs to be replaced instead of just the engine. FDR knew that. He was able to double-deal in California in 1934 to undercut Sinclair Lewis, but knew that Huey Long and Charles Coughlin (pre-Nazi shark jumping) were a different matter. (I'm setting aside conspiracy theories about who "really" killed Huey Long.)

FDR knew that, for all the reservations he had about it (and he had a LOT, including forcing it to have a separate tax rather than coming out of general income taxes; take him off the pedestal here), that he needed to approve some form of Social Security or a Huey Long would indeed "primary" him in 9136.

Meanwhile, readers here: Get off the fence. Stop even thinking of voting for Dear Leader.

Obama LIES about 'we refuse to live in fear' after 9/11

Obama lies, folks, no other word for it.

First, the man himself was standing behind three-inch-thick bulletproof glass when he said that. If he really believed differently, he would have spoken in the open.

Second, later that, day, panicky, living-in-fear Americans forced multiple planes to be "escorted" by jets because somebody with darker skin spent too long in the plane's bathroom.

Third, to riff on that, when's "America's first black president" going to stop claiming we live in a post-racial America? When's he going to condemn the racial profiling that led to Sunday's "incidents"? When's he going to be honest enough to tell us whether he actually believes we're in post-racial America or that's just political talk?

Fourth, the man himself lives in political fear all the time, that he's going to be seen as insufficiently anti-terrorist or insufficiently pro-Israel.

Fifth, he himself, or his administration, stokes some of these other fears. Greenwald has a great roundup.

Obama hits new low in defending dictators

Preznit Kumbaya has hit a new low, seeking official immunity from any possible U.S. crimes (or trial by international court??) for Rwandan prez Paul Kagame and his wife.

Is this part of a broader agenda, to officially undermine international definitions of war crimes, to give blanket protection to the U.S., even himself, in the future? What gives?

And, while I don't kick the "mainstream media" to the curb too often, where is its reporting on this?

Rick Perry (and W) meet Phil Gramm and John Connally

Dear Texans, GOPers and Americans: For a George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush who has coasted to the GOP nomination on a boatload of money (and Texas tough talk, etc. in the case of W., to extend this analogy), there's also been a Phil Gramm and a John Connolly before him. So, Rick Perry? Nothing's guaranteed. Nothing at all.

The second in a troika of GOP presidential debates shows that, too. I don't totally agree with Steve Kornacki's debate on the Social Security issue. While it didn't play well last night for Mittens, that's because that was a Tea Party Express, not just tea partier, debate. Remember the southern GOP old fart who said in 2010, to the "government," that he was warning it to "keep your hands off my Medicare"? While quasi-astroturfed groups like Tea Party Express have plenty of younger faces, actual lower-case tea partiers are older, as well as whiter, than generic Republicans. This issue will play well in Florida, and in conservative but non-nutbar states that are older, like Pennsylvania.

That said, Kornacki nails that the Gardasil vaccine push (and Perry got $30K, not $16K, from Merck) was red meat to TPers wary of big gummint. More importantly, it was red meat for Michele Bachmann, keeping her in the race, or getting her more back in it. If she can finish within 10 points of the winner of Iowa, undercut Perry enough to give Mittens a majority in New Hampshire, or to help Ron Paul finish ahead of Perry ... she might pick up some Southern support. Let's say Nikki Haley, South Carolina's gov, endorses her, not Tricky Ricky? Perry's possibly out of the race.

The debate also shows, within the GOP, that Tricky Ricky is vulnerable on illegal immigration. Mittens came close to the truth here, noting that this might be part of Perry's "Texas miracle." But, he didn't go far enough.

To me, it seems clear that the Perry who really likes illegal immigration is Bob Perry, to build his cheap homes. Bachmann would be the best to make that tie-in, and then call it "socialism."

Anyway, Rick Perry's money and posturing don't guarantee a thing.

September 12, 2011

#U.S. and #Rome ... and #Egypt and #China

It's been fashionable for some time, but even more after 9/11 (sorry, have to reference it) to compare the United States to Rome. We did get rid of slavery, of course, but there are many parallels.

A republic that continually became more and more oligarchic? Check. We've not become dictatorial yet, but ... who knows who might exploit the War on Terror how far?

An empire, even if we have no emperor, and one that uses a mix of hard and soft power, force and money, alliances and more? Check.

A polyglot nation, with many ethnic and social groups? Check.

But, there's nations besides Rome that have lessons from ancient history.

Egypt? Divisions at semi-regular times between Upper and Lower Egypt reflect red-blue divisions today. Ultimately, both sides lost. (That said, when the divisions are ideological, on one side, the other side can't be so pragmatic as to play Preznit Kumbaya, either.)

Also, let's not forget that ancient Egypt, like today, had climatic variations. Global warming aside, anti-science attitudes in the U.S. could learn lessons. Egyptian pharoahs monitored Nile levels every year, so as to predict how good or bad the annual fertilizing flood would be.

At the same time, pharoahs eventually extended the trappings and sharing of power beyond blood lineage, co-opting exceptional commoners.

Finally, beyond authoritarian government, pharoahs co-opted religion in a way Roman emperors never did. That's a definite lesson for today.

China? Similar lessons to Egypt in some ways.

Throw out the Tibet and Xinjiang which ethnic Han dynasties didn't always control. China proper was often split into competing northern and southern empires at the same time. In the north, especially, weather issues with the Huang Ho (Yellow) River were important. Chinese emperors didn't co-opt religion in the same way as in Egypt, but did claim the "mandate of heaven." And, Chinese developed their mandarians, complete with Confucian schools and exams for civil service.

In America today, if it stumbles further, it's not because America is no longer a "Christian nation." It's because the belief that we were in the first place has both ossified and become malignant at the same time. It's because (as what partially happened in Egypt) geographic distinctions get appropriated for religious or other ends. It's when the elite let themselves be co-opted to the national security state, even if it doesn't have an emperor or pharoah at the top.

With both ancient nations, they should advise anybody not a Christian fundamentalist that claims we are a "christian nation" not only are ossified, they mean nothing when enlightened by the stark realities of history.

Finally, given larger forces of history, Rome and China, at least, maybe needed to fall, from sheer size, both geographically and in terms of population. Let's not forget we have more than 310 million in America now.

NYT gets dishonest on one-term presidents

In a column about how one-term presidents can still do good, Julian E. Zelizer, who is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, stacks the deck. And, if he's a Princeton history prof, he knows better.

He focuses on semi-successful to successful one-term presidents to bolster the case that, crappy economy aside, Obama can still make his mark, or whatever.

The only really successful one-term president, whom Zelizer notes, is Polk. He also looks at LBJ, who was indeed successful, if we ignore what he called "that bitch of a war."

From there, third on his list is George H.W. Bush, who gets some credibility for starting to cut the budget deficit and being the last national Republican to care about that.

After that? If you're citing Jimmy Carter, whom these pages have compared to Obama before and vice versa, as an example of a semi-successful one-term president, er, you're flailing. Even more so if you feel compelled to mention Herbert Hoover, whom these pages have also compared to Obama before and vice versa, as another example for Dear Leader.

But, despite the column showing John Adams' pic as the first one-term president, Zelizer doesn't mention him, when his persecution of alien residents and breaking of civil liberties marks him as the first of many bad one-term presidents.

That list would also include Quincy Adams, somewhat Martin Van Buren, John Tyler (at least on political grounds), Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford Hayes and possibly Benjamin Harrison in the 19th century. In a pre-imperial presidency, mediocre or worse presidents found it harder to use the trappings of office to even get renominated, let alone re-elected.

The 20th century has a few clunkers, too. Harding, certainly. Hoover, despite creating the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, for showing a lack of larger vision. Gerald Ford, starting with his pardon of Dick Nixon.

So, just as Obama set history as the first black man elected president, he can set further history as the first one-term president of the 21st century. Or, if the anecdote MoJo Dowd reports about his work habits is correct, maybe his emulation of Ronald Reagan goes further than we thought.

And, her pick-up is worth noting:
He’s eternally the gifted and sometimes indolent student who has to be wooed and pressured into making the game-winning shot. As one aide joked, “We work 6 to 9 and he works 9 to 6.” 
With a habit like that, the Obama quote Zelizer uses to start his column becomes ... not quite ironic, but maybe zaftig?
“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,” President Obama confessed to ABC News’ Diane Sawyer last year. Other than the “really good” part, Republicans would be happy to see this wish fulfilled.
Speaker of the House Thomas B. "Czar" Reed told one Representative who said, "I'd rather be right than be president" that he would be neither. I say the same about Obama's options.

September 11, 2011

U.S., Palestinian statehood and Arab-world credibility

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal pens a mildly worded but strongly voiced op-ed in the New York Times saying the U.S. needs to support Palestinian statehood at the U.N. rather than "risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world."

If that's not a shot across the bow, this should be:
Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people. 

Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so.

 That's a big, big threat there. In Iraq, that would mean the Anbar Awakening would re-awaken; Shi'a-Sunni warfare would start over. That's especially true if "opposing Maliki" meant the Saudis (through appropriate third-party funneling) actually started providing money, arms or both to an Anbar Re-Awakening. The U.S. would either be hamstrung or else forced to keep more troops there. And, Iran would surely up its support for Moqtada al-Sadr, who would probably push Maliki to fight back harder, or else would himself disavow the Maliki government.

And, in an ongoing recession, if we do start to recover, any would-be Saudi help on oil supplies could go by the boards. Turki doesn't mention that, but ... does he have to?

Other than that, Turki is right: The only real losers from a Palestinian state, at least one with Hamas marginalized and the Palestinian Authority in charge, are Syria (and proxies in Lebanon) and Iran.

At the same time, as Israeli-Egyptian events of the past two weeks have shown, Tel Aviv is feeling isolated indeed. If the Saudis are leaning on us in public, they're leaning on the Netanyahu government through third channels, too.

And, Turki didn't write this column alone. This is the public expression, in some way, shape or form, of what Riyadh has privately told the Obama Administration through diplomatic channels in the past few weeks.

Will Dear Leader listen, or will he listen to Zionists and semi-Zionists in the U.S. instead?