SocraticGadfly: 3/4/12 - 3/11/12

March 09, 2012

What Obama should do in Term 2 -- and won't

Some of the staff at the under-new-ownership New Republic, on the grounds that President Obama has at least a 50-50 shot at re-election, offer up a laundry list of what he should do with that second term.

It's actually kind of laughable.

Civil liberties? From the Dear Leader who flip-flopped on telecom snooping immunity in the middle of the 2008 campaign? Talk like a liberal? Fat chance, if he's not already. Political reform? Won't happen, and fake "reform" wouldn't be extended to third parties, anyway. Fiscal policy? Well, his Catfood Commission has already proposed that. Real liberals shouldn't want more of the same.

Isn't this just one more exercise in "projecting" stuff onto Obama?

That all said,  the new ownership probably won't move TNR off its current neoliberal focal point. And, how do you "triangulate" off neoliberalism and Democratic Party policy?

Meanwhile, per the first link, I think all opinion journals would be smart to transition as much as possible to web-based publishing, given ongoing problems to be likely with second-class postal rates, delivery, paper costs, etc.

March 08, 2012

Prez Duke Nukem aiding #Bibi on #Iran?

Explosive indeed, per Yahoo, is the story that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu asked Dear Leader, President Obama, for "bunker buster" bombs to use against Iran -- AND GOT THEM! In exchange for which, he agreed not to attack until after 2012.

This is getting ridiculous. Dear Leader sings "Kumbaya" at home to the GOP but "Onward Bombing Soldiers" abroad.

Hell, for all we know, he and Bibi are trying to provoke Iran through such side-of-mouth negotiations.

And, dear Democrats: Santorum is NOT going to get the GOP nod, so don't harp on me for continuing to tout Dr. Jill Stein, the likely Green Party candidate.

#Infowars: DOJ may sue #Apple

I've blogged a whole series of posts about the developing wars for online information (click the "infowars" tag) and content control, with Apple, Google and Amazon appearing to be the leading players right now, followed by Facebook and some others.

Well, the Department of Justice is looking at claims of price-fixing among e-book publishers, especially Apple and others who use its "agency" model of price-setting. Gee, shock me that an inside-controlled, inflexible Apple model for doing something, the 1984 model, irony intended, if you will, would get Apple into trouble.

Not that Amazon doesn't have its own e-book problems, including publishing vacuumed-up blog post as e-books, sometimes without authorial knowledge.

But, right now, Apple gets the black eye. Rightfully.

Will Preznit Kumbaya talk to House GOP on budget deal?

So now, House Republicans are threatening to derail last year's budget/debt control deal?And, Obama's response? "OOoh, that could cause a shutdown." Duh, that is kind of what they want, isn't it?

That said, the House GOP leadership may not want such a battle, even if rank and file members do. But, the clueless sincerity, or whatever, with which he approaches this issue boggles the mind. This was an immediate opening to pre-empt the political attack angle and he blew it.

March 07, 2012

Don't get fooled on "entry-level" jobs

Here and here are two good websites to learn about what job offers on places like Monster and CareerBuilder are really commission-only sales jobs with little to no training.

How much 'protection' is Bush giving Saudis?

That's the bottom-line thesis of Anthony Summers' great new book, "The Eleventh Hour." It's not as in depth as Lawrence Wright on what led up to 9/11, but it takes a good look at the 9/11 Commission, its report, and what it did and did not look at. That includes asking why the final chapter of the commission's report is almost totally censored.

From my Goodreads review:

The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin LadenThe Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden by Anthony Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seeing Anthony Summers as co-author (along with his wife) made me both excited and a bit apprehensive about this new book overviewing 9/11. Summers has done great work on Nixon, but in his “The File on the Tsar” he gave credence to conspiracy ideas, claiming that at least Anastasia, if not other daughters of Nicholas II, escaped the cellar in Ekarterinberg.

Well, I was pleasantly relieved early on. Quite so.

Summers quickly dismisses conspiracy theories about the attacks, focusing above all on the Twin Towers. On the engineering side, he refers to the authoritative NIST report. On the common-sense side, he raises the rhetorical question of how could saboteurs plant thousands of pounds of C4 or whatever inside the Twin Towers and never be caught?

The middle 50 percent of the book gives an overview of how al Qaeda came to plot this. Not too much new here, primarily a good tying together of time line issue. But, he does note one thing in conjunction with the CIA’s quasi-criminal laxness on reporting would-be 9/11 hijackers to the FBI. (Plenty on that, a fair amount of the FBI’s bad-enough laxness.)

Reportedly, the CIA may have been trying to “turn” two of the eventual hijackers in an attempt to “penetrate” al Qaeda. Oops! Beyond that, some people claim that Saudi intelligence may have been using the same duo as a go-between, to try to “control” bin Laden.

Summers thinks that of little credence. But the general idea of how much Saudis, including royals, were connected to bin Laden, before, during and after 9/11? Different story.

The final quarter of the book uses as its starting point the fact that the whole final chapter of the 9/11 Commission’s report is still censored/redacted. Why?

Summers speculates, and has a few facts to offer. The censor is George W. Bush himself; he’s acting to protect those Saudi royals. And, there’s strands of evidence to indicate they were individually funneling money to bin Laden, and staying in some sort of contact with al Qaeda members, before 9/11, close to 9/11, and possibly even afterward.

I won’t give details of that; no need for too much spoiler alert. But … read!

View all my reviews

March 06, 2012

Can Romney wrap it up tonight? Maybe not

Per the analysis of Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, he could essentially wrap things up, indeed.If he wins both Tenness and Ohio, he would have a commanding delegate lead, plus the "Big Mo." If he only wins Ohio, but n ot Tennessee, among the borderline states, the fight will probably go on, but with Romney still in the driver's seat.

Under the first scenario, the question has to be, will Santorum honestly face the handwriting? And, will the media be honest about not promoting a horse race any more? And, will Newt pull a Jerry Brown or something? On the second scenario, how well with both Romney and Santorum "spin"?

Update, 8 p.m. Central: Looks like we're in scenario 2, at least, as Santorum seems to be winning Tennessee. And, handily.

Then there's scenario three -- Santorum winning both states.

Related to that, in your "What's the Matter with State X" moment, both Romney and Santorum are fighting for blue-collar, yes, blue-collar votes.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her 'mirror' in great new bio

Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia SiddiquiWanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui by Deborah Scroggins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great twin biography/history, kind of like a pair of Plutarch's "parallel lives." Indeed, Scroggins notes that it's possible Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui could have cone in each other's directions; Ali herself has said so.

Beyond the general parallels, the thing I most noted about Ali is that it's more obvious than ever, from this book, why she threw her lot in with the neocons politically and the Gnu Atheist "philosophically." Both groups, and Ali, tend toward absolutism in their interpretation of various events. And also, while Ali is perhaps not quite Sarah Palin, Scroggins makes clear that she has a love of the limelight and publicity too. While she is still a sympathetic figure to some degree, she's less so to me than she was before I read this book, and she wasn't totally sympathetic then.

Siddiqui is less well-known; in fact, despite her trial and conviction, I knew very little about her. That said, an MIT graduate of graduate school becoming one of al-Qaeda’s top female backers is indeed a caution … a caution in part to the Ali types who want to say that all Islam is fundamentalist, and that it’s fundamentalist because of its backwardness.

Scroggins also offers a peek or two at Pakistan’s ISI and just how closely connected it may have been to Siddiqui.

View all my reviews

March 05, 2012

Leny Dykstra: Financial guru?

Who knew? But, the Los Angeles Times, calls Dyskstra, aka "Nails," by exactly that phrase:
Dykstra, who faced up to a four-year sentence, must serve his time in state prison. He had pleaded no contest to grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement in connection with a scheme to use somebody else's paperwork to steal or lease several new cars, according to court records.
No more a financial guru than he was a baseball genius. (Or a courtroom guru ... trying to withdraw a "Nolo" long after it was made?)

Philosophy's the same by any name

I agree in part with Colin McGinn, that many people may have bad conceptions about philosophy. But, his idea of renaming the discipline will have little effect. As for the science-philosophy gap, that comes im large part, in many areas, from scientists believing they're too good to need the insight of philosophers, especially those pesky critters called philosophers of science.

Well, as something like Pop Ev Psych shows, noooooo, scientists often need a lot of philosophical help, even straightening out.

What about God and the first tornado, ma'am?

I'm no Gnu Atheist, and I know at bottom line people in general are creatures of emotion, and desire for psychological comfort first, then rationality second.

Nonetheless, I can't help but point out this line from a survivor of the Harrisburg, Ill., tornado, in light of the possibility that a new round of severe weather could bring more twisters to the area:
"You just keep thinking, 'God, please don't let there be another tornado.'"
Sorry, Ms. Wise, but the god you believe in, under your belief system, already let one happen there. Why not another?

UPDATE: Apparently no God, or karma-reliever, for this 14-month-old tornado victim, either.

IF religious people were willing to drop either omnipotence or omnibenevolence from belief systems, then non-Gnu Atheists like me would dialogue more on more issues. And, this is primarily an  issue of western monotheisms.

But ...  

Or course,. as I've said before, karma is in some ways  worse than hell, so I'm not letting Buddhism or Hinduism off the hook.

In eitherr caser, at some point, when the emotoinal and psychological burdens get to be enough, don't the shells crumble? Now, for non-Gnu Atheist, I recognize that until those shells DO crumble, the psychological value they offer isn't to be sniffed at. But, large swaths of the ancient west knew better, that religions less overarching, with fewer, less absolute emotional shells, often were better in the long run.

It's called "acceptance," without invoking an omnipotent-and-omnibenevolent deity who, as "a lover of life but player of pawns," will ultimately tie you in emotional, not just intellectual, knots.