SocraticGadfly: 2/26/12 - 3/4/12

March 03, 2012

Are red states all leeches?

Alternet's story to that end doesn't link to the NYT original, nor to TPM's take on it, but let's deconstruct it.

First, Alternet does acknowledge that red-state Texas is a mild anti-leach, but claims that's all due to resources. Well, if true, that would also apply to hard-rock mining in a number of Western states and the oil + gas + coal of Wyoming. Texas is rather a state with several big cities from red Houston to reddish Fort Worth to neutral Dallas (blue in the central core) to blue Austin.

And, on the flip side, California, the largest blue state, is a leech.

Second, the biggest red-state leech, Mississippi, is arguably so in part because of blue-type black voters, or black non-voters. That's the same reason blue-state New Mexico is a huge leech, too.

So, please, the story is more nuanced than Alternet plays it out to be.

March 02, 2012

What could be wrong with private space exploration?

Ohh, nothing ... other than the attitude like that, on planet Earth, that would turn exploration into exploitation. Here's a good SciAm blog on just how all this could wrongly play out.

Michael Mann swing his 'hockey stick'

As this L.A. Times column notes, Mann's desire to "fight back" against climate change denialists will be an uphill sled indeed after Peter Gleick's recent skullduggery. But, contra the column, I don't think he needs to rethink the attitude. He may need to think even more carefully than before about the approach.

But, rightfully or wrongfully obtained, what Gleick got, especially the new info about how Heartland wants to indoctrinate teachers to indoctrinate students to be "deniers" show that this is a battle, and a battle that must be joined.

Per Big Denialists' riffing on Big Tobacco, what if Philip Morris launched a massive campaign to get junior high and high school science teachers to talk about the health benefits of tobacco?

So, are you ready to rumble?

Mad about #SOPA? Read this book, among others

Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet FreedomConsent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom by Rebecca MacKinnon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the era of SOPA, PIPA, warrantless wiretapping, for-profit social media sites and more, this is a must-read book.

In the U.S., Europe, China, Iran and elsewhere, Rebecca MacKinnon tackles issues that boi down to the need for an "Internet bill of rights," sometimes vis-a-vis big government, and sometimes vis-a-vis big business. She also notes some of the conundrums this involves, like big government trying to regulate big business, western Internet-related companies selling equipment (Cisco and routers a classic example) to repressive government, Internet platforms cozying up to said governments and more.

The bottom line is, as MacKinnon makes clear, even if answers aren't easy, we need answers. We need them in specific legal and regulatory form. And we need them soon.

View all my reviews

March 01, 2012

An intro to Bill James and the MLB HOF

Whatever Happened to the Hall of FameWhatever Happened to the Hall of Fame by Bill James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good intro to James' sabermetric thoughts as they impact the Hall of Fame.

Though he says early on that this is NOT a book about who should be in or out, it's clear that he thought Phil Rizzuto (written before his induction) shouldn't be in, Dick Allen shouldn't be in, and Don Drysdale should be out, among others.

And, was Sandy Koufax's late career brilliance in part not only leaving Ebbetts Field, but then leaving the L.A. Coliseum and its short left field for spacious Dodger Stadium and it's ultra-high mound?

Agree or disagree, James will make you think, if you are prepared to do so.

View all my reviews

February 29, 2012

William O. Douglas - Iconoclastic liberal

The Court Years: The Autobiography Of William O. DouglasThe Court Years: The Autobiography Of William O. Douglas by William Orville Douglas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good overview of Bill Douglas' court years. Not totally shocked by what he thought of LBJ, including how much he manipulated us into Vietnam. I am shocked that he didn't always rate Thurgood Marshall highly outside of civil rights issues. That said, per Douglas, that Marshall never would vote for cert. on Vietnam War draft protesters appealing their draft calls because Congress never declared war, makes Douglas' feelings understandable.

To me, they had a great case, constitutionally. It's sad that most of the time, Hugo Black was apparently the only other judge who would grant cert.

The book gives you a good look at Douglas, a liberal for sure in America, but also an iconoclastic one.

View all my reviews

Early Christian evidence or puffery?

The earliest-ever archaeological evidence for Christianity has allegedly been uncovered in Jerusalem. But, the "allegedly" is very, very important; the report comes from the same folks who are behind the claims of finding an alleged "Jesus Tomb."
The newly discovered ossuary carries a Greek inscription calling on God to "raise up" someone, which is being interpreted as an early reference to the biblical resurrection of Jesus.

A second limestone box appears to show the carved image of a fish, which may be a reference to the biblical prophet Jonah. This would be a historical first, as references to the resurrection had not previously been discovered before the 2nd century.

"If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible -- until now," University of North Carolina scholar James Tabor said in a statement....

As significant as this discovery is, it may itself be buried under renewed discussion over the potential discovery of a tomb inscribed with the names of the biblical Jesus and his family. The investigators, lead by University of North Carolina scholar Tabor, are the same team who five years ago claimed to have made "The Jesus Discovery." ... He (also) contributed to a controversial TV documentary called, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which received significant attention at the time of its release, since it was produced in partnership with Academy Award winning director James Cameron. ...

"This inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus' resurrection," Tabor said in the statement, referring to the "raise up" inscription on the ossuary.

"We now have the new archaeological evidence, literally written in stone, that can guide us in properly understanding what Jesus' earliest followers meant by their faith in Jesus' resurrection from the dead — with his earthly remains, and those of his family, peacefully interred just yards away," Tabor and (a collaborator) wrote.
First, the fish iconography may or may not be linked to Jonah.

Second, the "raise up" could refer to someone else. The Mandeans are a "world religion" technically a few years older than Christianity; Mandeans view John the Baptizer  as a metaphysical, messianic-type savior in the way Christians view Jesus. Related to that, if the fish does refer to Jonah, who's to say that imagery is Christian? Or, the "raise up" may not refer to resurrection from the dead. So, who's to say this is Christian overall?

'Anonymous' comes to Burnet County, Texas

"Anonymous" was at a city council meeting at Bertram, a small town in our county last night. According to our one reporter, it's not the first time the two, young enough for her to call them "boys," were there, but the first for them to wear the Guy Fawkes/Vendetta masks. I think most the old farm folks and council members there had no fricking idea who the two people in masks were, or what they were about.

It's called "messaging," or even more, "priming," folks.

Beyond that, is "Anonymous" coming full circle to meet "Tea Party" in the rural heartland? I mean, I don't normally hear of it hitting towns of 1,500 population, and indicating that the government of concern might be local as well as national. Some places are just more fertile for things like this in general than others.

February 28, 2012

A frothy mix is whipping up in Michigan

The back-and-forth in the GOP race in the state has apparently swung back to Santorum again. Fro p[eole who like political chess matches, or a protracted GOP race, or ongoing train wrecks, or whatever, this is good, fun news, and has more to go with it.

Gingrich seems likely to win Georgia, a week later, and Romney to win Arizona at the same time Santorum wins Michigan. And, from there we head on to Super Tuesday with Romney and Santorum battling for the top, Gingrich seeing if Georgia offers momentum and Grandpa Paul seeing if he can scrape something together.

And, now, it looks like we could get that. Michigan is too close to call, which means that there will be a lot of "spinning," no matter who wins.

#TigerWoods: Thin-skinned indeed

First, Tiger, be a man, and don't hide behind agent Mark Steinberg's comments about Hank Haney's new book. Speak yourself.

Second, it's clear that Steinberg is engaging in one of the lowest of low-blows to claim Haney's worries that Tiger's military-geared things like parachute jumping might make his knee worse are "anti-military."

Third, it's clear that that wasn't the case, so we know how much Steinberg will twist the truth, for his client.

Ryan Braun skates on technicality

"The Hebrew Hammer," Milwaukee Brewers' slugging outfielder Ryan Braun, has gotten his 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball for allegedly using performance enhancing drugs overturned.

I think he's innocent by the letter of the law. But, otherwise? More murky, despite his claims.
“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation,” he said. “We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.” 

“I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide,” the statement added. “I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.”
I think he likely was a user of something, if not a steroid.

But, this is the rule of law. Let MLB's Rob Manfred rant.  The testing agreement specifies samples have to get to Montreal ASAP, and this one didn't. Given that it was the postseason, with fewer teams and games at one time in play, the sloth is even less excusable than if it happened in the regular season.

And, the test allegedly didn't "hit" on a steroid. So while Bud Selig is right that testing has gotten better, it's still not perfect, either.

UPDATE: By acting like a piece of shit toward the person who had custody of the samples, as Jeff Passan explains, Braun is doing nothing but make himself look more guilty in my eyes. The Hebrew Chutzpaher?

And that collector, Dino Laurentz Jr., has responded.

Learning economics, being rich, makes you greedy

It should be no surprise that, on average, the richer you are, the more likely you are to lie and cheat. Here's an interesting sidebar to that:
In the research reported yesterday, the experiments suggest at least some wealthier people “perceive greed as positive and beneficial,” probably as a result of education, personal independence and the resources they have to deal with potentially negative consequences, the authors wrote....

Previous research has shown that students who take economics classes are more likely to describe greed as good.  
Were Shakespeare alive today, he'd say: "The first thing we do is kill all the economists." You know, those folks who justified everything leading up to 2008.

Back to the main thread. The story notes that the rich were ready to cheat for relatively minor sums, too. Sums that would, in real life, benefit them almost nothing.

Were Lord Acton around today, he'd say, "Too much money corrupts, and the more you're over the 'too much line,' the more likely you are to be more corrupt."

Arthur Caplan notes how this is the baseline problem with capitalism:
“Support for free-market capitalism will collapse if those who do well don’t do good. Rapacious, intolerant, nonempathetic capitalism that says lie, cheat, steal, it’s only the bottom line that matters -- aside from being morally repugnant, it’s got a dim future.” 
Well, actually, with social Darwinism and the "success gospel" propping it up, it may not have a dim future at all, unless "What's the Matter with Kansas" sheeple get a clue.

BIG Medicare fraud in my old stomping grounds

Were Dr. Jacques Roy or Teri Sivils members of the DeSoto (Texas) Chamber of Commerce? Because, $375 million would go a long way. Here's the details;
Under the alleged fraud scheme, the doctor and his office manager in DeSoto, Texas, Teri Sivils, who was also charged, allegedly sent healthcare “recruiters” door-to-door asking residents to sign forms that contained the doctor’s electronic signature and stated that he had seen the residents professionally for medical services he never provided.

They also allegedly dispatched more “recruiters” to a homeless shelter in Dallas, paying $50 to every street person they coaxed from a nearby parking lot and signed him up on the bogus forms.
Next question: Did the shelter get any kickback?

If a bunch of home health agencies are being suspended from Medicare for alleged conspiracy, who's to say what a homeless shelter might do?

Nocera whiffs on yet another enviro column

After twice getting Keystone XL wrong, he now fails on fracking.

First, touting state-by-state regs as better than federal ones is stupid enough.

Second, not telling readers about Fred Krupp's background is worse yet. He's another neolib in the Gang Green hierarchy.

February 27, 2012

Why 'Gang Green' isn't working well today

That exact phrase isn't used in this great article by Alternet, but the story is talking about the style of the big, mainstream environmental groups, who styled themselves "Gang Green" at the start of the Clinton Administration. Wanting to play ball with Democratic insiders, give some friendly "greenwash" to businesses and other things are all symptoms of their model that is not only top-down to their detriment, but overly politicized and too controlling.

And, not surprisingly, as a result of all of this, "Gang Green" is also still whiter and richer than the country as a whole. In short ... about as neoliberal as the Democratic politicians and businesses it often sucks up to.

February 26, 2012

He died at fifty


That’s what a memorial said aboard the old-time train.
No cause of death listed.
Just that he died at fifty.
Did he feel old? Worn-out?
Or did he just … die unexpectedly?
Sometimes, at age forty-eight
I feel “older,” at least,
And definitely worn-out on occasion.
Especially recently.
Internalizing criticism,
When it’s not totally valid
Or overblown relative to the situation,
Can do that to a person,
Especially one sensitive in general
(Though not perfect
About being sensitive to others)
And sensitive to yelling in particular,
As well as sensitive to crazy-making.

What if he, too, finally just wore out?
It’s one thing to die young, or younger,
It’s another yet to die younger
With the end of one’s life
Becoming one massive burden.
And nobody noticed, and he said nothing
Until too late.

What if that’s me?
– Feb. 26, 2012

Douthat's Ike vs reality

Ross Douthat excoriates Frank Geary for his idea of an Eisenhower memorial in D.C., claiming it's too far detached from reality.


Douthat's vision of Ike is too far detached from reality.

First, on his half-sneer about entitlement programs? Ike expanded Social Security under his watch.

The full sneer about Vietnam? Ike refused to sign the Geneva Accords of 1954, knowing full well that Ho Chi Minh would win any free election in Vietnam.

The full sneer about foreign adventures? Ike's CIA overthrew Mossadegh in Iran and Arbenz in Guatemala. And who knows what else ... well, it was Ike's CIA that also planned the Bay of Pigs.

Military leadership? In Europe, Gen. Simpson, commander of the Ninth Army, was the best top-level commander we had, ahead of Ike or Patton. Nimitz in the Pacific was better, too.

And Douthat doesn't even mention that Ike golfed with and palled around with segregationists, all while refusing to put the full weight of the federal government behind Brown vs. Board of Education.

And, so, Ike is lucky to be ranked 12th. (As is Carter, with whom he is tied in 2011 Gallup Poll on presidents.) What that poll really shows is that often, we've had leadership somewhat less than great, or even somewhat less than that.

That said, per friend Leo Lincourt, why not a memorial to Millard Fillmore and his mythical first bathtub in the White House?

Or, as I responded, a memorial to first gay president James Buchanan? (Given that both he and Rick Santorum are from Pennsylvania, we could slip in a few frothy jokes, too.)

Out of 44 presidents, is 12th about right for Ike? Let's put Lincoln, Washington, and in no particular ranking after that, FDR, TR, John Adams, Chet Arthur, Polk (for accomplishments but not how he got them), LBJ (Great Society outweighing Nam and his lies that much) Jefferson, Monroe in front and Ike's at 11. So, he's ranked about right, actually.