SocraticGadfly: 5/27/12 - 6/3/12

June 02, 2012

HRH David

HRH David

He abdicated
For the woman he loved,
Or so he said of Wallis
And so he called their relationship.
Two hurt souls, damaged as children
Unable to quit inflicting more as adults,
Both upon themselves and on others.
A man, if you will, emotionally stunted,
Really Peter Pan, as even she said,
And a woma hunry for security
Who know how to charm, flatter, cajole and control.
Both called it love, if you will
Soothing some hurts while inflicting others
Both upon themselves and the other.
Two hurt souls, reaping the whirlwind,
Her becoming sharper, not softer,
Him growing older, but not growing up.
             – May 28, 2012

June 01, 2012

#MalcolmGladwell ... a suaver #StevePinker?

Meet the real Malcolm Gladwell ... and an apparently well-earned smackdown over his political credentials.

I had no idea he was so far right, at least at one time, as to have written for American Spectator. Now, of course, he may have changed politically. After all, David Brock also wrote for American Spectator.

But, if you look at his series of books, etc., he hasn't moved that far left. And David Brock never studied at the National Journalism Center, founded by Stanton Evans of Human Events. Beyond that, anybody who willingly shilled for Big Tobacco is in a special circle of hell.

At best, I think, as I told a Facebook friend, that you could call the Gladwell of today a Venn diagram intersection of the right wing of neoliberalism, Pop Evolutionary Psychology and Pop Evolutionary Sociology. Of course, you could probably say at least somewhat the same thing of Dear Leader's buddy, Cass Sunstein. And, you could probably call Pop Evolutionary Sociology behavioral psychology run amok.

May 31, 2012

I don't like #JohnEdwards but ...

I'm glad that his trial turned out as well as it did, short of a full, across the board "not guilty."

And, let's hope to doorknob that Dear Leader's Department of Justice doesn't retry the mistrial charges. Doesn't Obama have better things for DOJ to do? You know, like investigate JPMorgan? I'm sorry, Obama has half a million financially sound reasons not to hunt down BFF Jamie Dimon.

Beyond that, this and other recent public integrity unit cases are getting bogged down in sexual issues. And. it shouldn't. Edwards paid Rielle Hunter not to do anything illegal; if a particular campaign financer put up the money for that, that's his biz. As for Big Bill Richardson, ditto from what I can tell of developments so far. If an alleged harassee has filed an actual civil claim, and Richardson THEN spent money related to that, for silence or something, different story, of course.

May 30, 2012

Texas 2012 primary observations

Just a few thoughts from last night’s fun, or, “fun.”

1. Let’s not forget that, depending on what the DC Court of Appeals eventually says, we could have more redistricting fun in 2014.

2. Name recognition still matters … even if you’re not an incumbent, like Ciro Rodriguez and even Paul Sadler. Maybe even Roger Williams in the “new” Congressional District 25, it seems.

3. At least some Democrats still want progressive options. That doesn’t include you, Silvestre Reyes.

4. Tea party nuttery is alive and well. Will it be “alive” enough to help Ted Cruz in the GOP Senate runoff? I doubt it, but who knows. Will Leppert make a formal endorsement of Dewhurst or not?

5. Let’s see what the Greens do in two weeks.

6. Will Texas be “blue” by 2030 due to Latino influence? First, Latinos aren’t monolithic; Mexican Americans are different from Cuban Americans like Cruz. Second, even, say, Mexican Americans aren’t as solidly Democratic as African Americans. Third, it’s probably overstated, but an old rule of thumb says, that as far as numbers versus actual turnout, one white voter equals two blacks equals three Hispanics. So, I would offer a tentative “no” to that issue.

I work in the fifth-worst career — stupidity-caused irony

LA Times columnist Rick Horsey says newspapers can still succeed if they'll stop being link whores.

He bemoans the New Orleans Times Picayune going to non-daily in print, and the end of the Post-Intelligencer in Seattle in print entirely, though he appears ignorant of the closure of the web version, even though he used to work there.

The stupidity-influenced irony? It’s not quite click-whoredom, but … the LAT still has a fake paywall. It’s not a Javascript screen, unlike the New York Times, but if you use private browsing mode, since it’s cookies-based, you avoid it that way. Or, I assume simply deleting any LAT cookies will take care of you, too.

More seriously, smart online newspaper analysts say that, for a “real” paywall to work well, the paper or magazine has to have special or unique content. Besides sports, that means Hollywood for the LAT, right? But, with Perez Hilton, TMZ and so many other media blogs, that’s a tough road to hoe, isn’t it?

May 29, 2012

War on Terror offers insights into Obama and legalisms

A long, in-depth piece in the New York Times, offers a great deal of insight not just into the Obama Administration’s take on the War on Terror, but that of Dear Leader himself.

The main takeaway? Obama as constitutional law scholar using legal scrutinizing to find loopholes to increase the War on Terror, whether it’s his assassinations list, expanding drone targets (and their use by calling all adult males in the vicinity of a drone strike combatants) or other decisions.

The story doesn’t actually call him “constitutional law scholar,” but it does, more than once, stress his lawyer’s background and how it has influenced him looking for loopholes.
It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. 
Does this look like a liberal-minded president? Not to me. And, "guilty until proven innocent" has moved more and more inside U.S. borders, too.

Add to that the factor of Obama the post-presidential president:
It was not only Mr. Obama’s distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.” 
No wonder he's looking forward to his post-presidential days and speaking fees of $100K or more (which is at least partially tax-deducted, ergo, paid for by you and me).  No wonder his leadership style, and leadership problems, as denoted by Ron Suskind, David Maraniss and others.

The story also notes the secretiveness of the assassination list program. Although it doesn't draw the comparisons, LBJ and Tonkin Gulf comes to mind. Of course, he was aided and abetted on some of that by JFK's best and brightest. Transparency, in general, was supposed to be another hallmark of the Obama Administration that has fallen by the wayside.

Unfortunately, many knowledgeable voters will frame the 2012 presidential election as a two-party contest, making a self-fulfilling prophecy in contrapositive out of the "wasted votes" hue and cry.

Well, isn't it a "wasted vote" to vote for a man who, even in terms of modern American presidential politics, is far from whom he tries to get his followers to believe he is, and one who simply won't go to the mat with the Republican Party?

I know the answer to that one, and did before the end of 2007, to be honest.

Beyond that, as Suskind indicated and as does the second takeout, the man still at times seems in over his head. Isn't that part of what's behind the "Hillary for Veep" push — not just the idea that Obama needs someone who won't embarrass him, but also someone who will give him experience, and the backbone to take Congress to the mat?

May 28, 2012

#MemorialDay - a modest #CivilWar proposal

I have a modest, or not so modest proposal, about Memorial Day. Actually,  let’s follow Jonathan Swift and call it a modest proposal.

We're in the middle of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. At least temporarily, until 2015, let's turn the focus of Memorial Day back to what it was originally, eh? A day to honor, to be precise, not just Civil War dead, but UNION Civil War dead.

Maybe, in fact, we should continue that until the "Party of Lincoln" again lives up to that name.

And, it could start by boosting education (Lincoln and land-grant colleges), of course civil rights (not just the attempt to disenfranchise minorities, but, I’m sure that, gay myths about Lincoln aside, he would support gay rights were he alive today), and much more.

Besides education and civil rights for minorities and gays?

Had Lincoln lived out his second term, I think he would have done more, as the only president to hold a patent, to boost science and technology. I think he would have done more (per the tenor of his times, at least) for women’s rights. I also hope that his stance toward American Indians would have evolved.

At the least, Lincoln wouldn’t have been retrograde on these issues.

He also wouldn’t be antiunion. As one of the poorest men ever to become president, even though he had become fairly wealthy by 1860, he wouldn’t have had economic policies strongly favoring the rich.

But, back to Memorial Day  and the Civil War itself. Lincoln definitely wouldn’t have let “states’ rights” become a shibboleth of HIS Republican Party. That would have meant that “these dead have died in vain.”

So, for the rest of today’s Memorial Day, and for the next three years, at least, that’s my “modest proposal.”

Oh, and after 2015, let's celebrate an honest sesquicentennial of Reconstruction, while we're at it.

Fat cats, #environmentalism and 'charity'

A ver good in-depth web feature here, originally solicited as a story for Orion mag, then spiked after a change in top editors.

In essence, Curtis White says that progressive charities have to be wary of being too activist, at least if they want to be very big, because progressive philanthropic organizations will kneecap charities that might get too “uppity” with their ideas.

Or, if not quite so bad, a foundation will only donate to a very narrow spectrum issue. This is especially the case if the original endowers of the organization are still alive.

White’s observations relate to two other things.

First, this is part of why Bruce Bartlett, a non-wingnut, “readable” conservative, leans toward wanting to ditch charitable donations from being tax deductible. He notes that, for many of the rich, “charities” usually are things like fine arts organizations.

And, this is also the biggest concern about philanthropy-sponsored nonprofit journalism — that a foundation, especially if the original endower is still alive, has some "boutique" ideas about the journalism, which ties even more directly to White’s whole essay.

Behind all of that are these issues:
In the end, philanthropy wants the wrong thing.  It may think that it ought to want what the lovers-of-nature want, but its actions reveal that, come what may, it loves other things first: the maintenance of its privileges, the survival of its self-identity, and the stability of the social and economic systems that made it possible in the first place.
Indeed. And that’s why you and I can count the truly liberal, TRULY progressive foundations with any degree of money on the fingers of our two hands.

Take George Soros. He may want to legalize marijuana, but you know he doesn’t want tighter derivatives regulation, let alone a “Tobin tax” on financial transactions.

So, folks who think some progressive nonprofits will save newspapers? Wrong. You may get a slightly more PBS/NPR version of the “mainstream media,” to the degree foundations think that such help isn’t pounding sand down a rathole,  or else you’ll get a special-interest newspaper.

Finally, whether you’re an environmental organization, an ailing old newspaper or a would-be new one, or even a fine arts group, White raises a red-flag type rhetorical question — where does the endowment invest its money?  

And, White just touched the tip of the iceberg. What he calls "Big Green" is more commonly known as "Gang Green," and, its donors are part of the reason why "political access" is more often  the coin of the realm than is idealism.