SocraticGadfly: 6/3/12 - 6/10/12

June 09, 2012

'Liberals' threaten not to vote for Obama; real liberals know their alternatives

 "Liberals" threatening not to vote in November because of disappointment over Obama make me laugh. Hell, I didn't vote for him in 2008, because I knew he was a neolib, and fiscally, about as far to the right side of neoliberalism, if not more so, than Clinton. Folks, there's an alternative to not voting. It's called the Green Party. The nominee-to-be is Dr. Jill Stein.

June 08, 2012

Clemens goes all in on perjury trial

Rusty Hardin, the flamboyant lawyer for alleged steroid user and accused perjurer Roger Clemens, started Clemens' perjury trial by arguing key Congressional witness Brian McNamee is himself a liar. It's clearly an "all-in" strategy, to use a poker phrase. And, realistically, it's about all Hardin has to play with.

(Update, June 18: It appeared to work, or else Clemens himself really is Roger the Dodger, despite Hardin's ineptitude in parts of the trial — the jury has just found him not guilty.)

I'll give Hardin, based on what people said in the voir dire to select a jury, at least a 25 percent chance of pulling this off.

In the real world? I think he's full of shit.

Example A of that, beyond the above? His claim that Andy Pettitte's testimony will only help Clemens. How, how, how? Even there, though, that's about all Hardin can do, is spin and hope for the best. Pettitte's not his witness, he's the government's. That said, how adversarial does he get with him?  And, what does the government do on redirect?

And, on the first day of trial, it now looks like Hardin's aggressiveness could backfire, letting the feds call additional witnesses even, if he continues. And, beyond that, he may know grandstanding, but Hardin's a Constitutional ignoramus if he thinks Congress doesn't have the authority to subpoena people and investigate issues as it so desires.

(Update, June 8: Debbie Clemens' testimony may have backfired, too. She totally contradicted one claim of her husband's, and laughably wants the jury to believe only she shot up, and only HGH, and with only McNamee around, not her husband. Her cross-examination could be even more fun.)

Of course, if Hardin wanted to be creative, he could do early and late career photos of Clemens' head, then do early and late career pix of Barry Bonds' head, and say to the jury, "See, look! No difference. No 2-sizes larger!"

Speaking of, a note to .... Barry Bonds hasn't weighed a measly 185 for more than a decade.

Update, May 17: Ahh, we're moving somewhere. McNamee is testifying. So, he told a white lie to protect his wife, and another to allegedly protect Clemens. That's no excuse for Hardin coming close to the moral equivalent of barratry, in, as even Judge Walton said, taking this case far afield. And, if Walton's not going to let the feds introduce new witnesses, he should do more to rein in Hardin.

Update, May 21: Instead, Hardin has created a small self-inflicted wound. Judge Walton has said that McNamee could name other names who allegedly got HGH, at least. And, he has named Chuck Knoblach and Pettite, both not "news," as well as making an allegation about Mike Stanton.

Update, May 23: Although warned by Judge Walton, Hardin was apparently dumb enough to possibly, at least, open the door for the feds to expand their case a crack. David Segui could be called to the stand, even if he really doesn't want to talk. It would make jurors wonder how much he might be hiding if he resists a subpoena to the point of an arrest.

Update, May 24: Segui showed up and talked. Sounds like he was of modest, or a bit more, help to the prosecution, but no more.

Update, June

The 2Q economy and Obama re-election

As I've blogged before, per a NYT op-ed, the economy's performance in the second quarter of the fourth year of a first-term incumbent president's term, if the economy in general is a factor, is key to his re-election. It's simple and sensible, really.

People haven't yet really made up their minds, if they're still on the fence, during the first quarter. But, by the third quarter, at least by halfway through, most people have.

So, the second quarter is key.

And, the May slowdown is probably problematic for Dear Leader. But how problematic?

Ben Bernanke talks words of modest optimism, even in the face of Eurozone troubles. But Chinese central bankers are officially worried. (At the same time, Bernanke hedged on the idea of further economic stimulus; one continues to have the idea he wants the GOP House to get real, but that he's not sticking his neck out.)

But reality ain't in the GOP lexicon:
Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, asked Mr. Bernanke to “look the market in the eye” and “take a third round of quantitative easing off the table.” 
And, that's Obama's silver lining. (Not necessarily the country's, though.)

If the GOP had a better candidate than Mitt Romney, or simply a better party than it actually does, we'd instead be talking about whether Obama can keep the race close, or if he's going to lose as badly as Poppy Bush in 1992, or as bad as Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Instead, Obama could still win. And, possibly have another GOP House, judging by redistricting issues in California. Ugh. Four more years of Kumbaya and Catfood Commission in the name of bipartisanship. If Jill Stein can't deliver the Green Party upset, I'd almost rather have Mittens win. Seriously.

Update, June 8: Meanwhile, despite wingnut whining about Bernanke and wishing about stocks diving, the Dow had its best week this year.

Texas GOP, affirmative action, quotas, and lies

Let me get this "straight." The GOP says it hates affirmative action as "quotas" ... BUT ...  the Texas GOP executive committee has male and female co-chairs for each State Senate district.

Even by modern Republican standards, with the hypocrisy of claiming to be the "Party of Lincoln," that venerates a Barry Goldwater who was fed up with much of the Religious Right long before today's tea partier version, and lyingly adores a deficit-busting Keynesian Ronald Reagan, blatant implementation of quotas is pretty low.

June 07, 2012

Is a 'global tipping point' near?

Scientists usually, as a group, aren't usually alarmists, wingnut beliefs about global warming and climate change aside.

That's why, per Raw Story, even though it's just 22 scientists warning about it, a group of researchers who is worried the mix of climate change and ongoing population growth could — soon and suddenly — cause a 'global tipping point' shouldn't be taken lightly. That's especially true since they were published in Nature, one of the world's most prestigious science journals.
The team determined that once 50-90 percent of small-scale ecosystems become altered, the entire eco-web tips over into a new state, characterised especially by species extinctions.

Once the shift happens, it cannot be reversed.

To support today’s population, about 43 percent of Earth’s ice-free land surface is being used for farming or habitation, according to the study.

On current trends, the 50 percent mark will be reached by 2025, a point the scientists said is worryingly close to the tipping point.
Meanwhile, though it's shorter-term, and therefore technically still more "weather" and not "climate" and also just U.S., not global, measurements, five-month/year-to-date temperature reports from NOAA should be alarming.

A lot of those anomalous (or what used to be anomalous, perhaps) temperature reports have at least three full sigmas of variation from the norm. And, the "degrees above normal," take note, is just from the years of 1981-2010, after we really started seeing temperature rises.

More here on how hot it's been, over the last 12-18 months, too.

Oh, and what will the Obama Administration say or do? Given the reaction of Dear Leader, as well as state officials, to oil pollution in North Dakota, little.

That said, the schadenfreude part of me kind of wishes to see this tipping point, as the U.S. has more to lose than many countries, the Biblical exceptionalists will have to scramble for talking points (they'll just blame "sinful liberals" in new ways, but won't be able to say God is protecting the U.S.), and, just maybe, as the rich retreat into ever-higher levels of gated isolation, the middle class of red-state wingnuttery will start "getting it."

Our 'Titanic' economy

I just got done reading a good book, "The Shadow of the Titanic." The biggest takeaway for today?

Per the headline, the "Titanic" economy of today.

People hear about how income inequality today in America is as bad as since the Great Depression, and actually, that's not quite true. 

Reality? It's as bad as since World War I, or earlier. In other words, we have a Titanic economy. And, per the book, we have everything else of that era. That includes rich who look down on the poor (in steerage/third class) while encouraging the middle class (seated in second class) to do the same. We have the attitudes of social Darwinism or its religious variant in drag, the success gospel, that the poor caused their fate and deserve it, and ditto for the rich. The role of luck/contingency gets swept under the rug.

True, this attitude was more common, or at least more open, in Britain than in the U.S. But, that's in part because the U.S. then as today believed it was a classless society. Another one of those American myths of both then and now, and one that usually gets stronger as myth the less true it is. (Let's not forget the U.S. drive to sterilize "imbeciles," who were usually people too poor to have gotten much schooling, and how the sterilization push found support in Hitlerite Germany.)

Anyway, here's the review:

Good overall. There's no "Unsinkable" Molly Brown here, but there's plenty of stories about other Titanic survivors.

And, not all of them "survived" as well as Molly Brown. Many widows went through multiple post-Titanic marriages. Some survivors went heavily into debt, perhaps as a coping mechanism. And, several survivors committed suicide. Indeed, one survivor who did not commit suicide nonetheless said she had "died" on April 14, 1912.

There's a bit of a depressing angle to this at times, to be honest.

At the same time, there's several other good takeaways from the book.

One, of course, is the hubris. If we want to start the "Edwardian Age" (from Britain's perspective) late in Victoria's reign, and run it past his 1910 death, the Titanic should be coupled with Aug. 4, 1914 and WWI as twin death knells for it.

Another is the class divisions, reflected among other things in the price divisions between first, second and third class seats, and also in the difference between female deaths in first and in third class. (It's worth noting today that income stratification is just about as bad again.)

June 06, 2012

Wisconsin Walker recall post-mortem

Everybody else has weighed in with why Gov. Scott Walker beat the recall effort against him, as personified by opponent Tom Barrett.

Beyond what I and a few online friends have discussed, namely, the long time lag at state level between recall push and actual vote (the California recall of Grey Davis and the 1921 recall of South Dakota's governor were the last successful gubernatorial recalls), I have to otherwise agree with the Washington PostTom Barrett was part of the problem, and by extension, so was the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Really? (To riff on Saturday Night Live.) You nominated a two-time loser retread who couldn't  even carry metro Milwaukee? 

Speaking of that, the Post blog, may be right about Barrett's relative lack of appeal. He didn't win any exurban Milwaukee counties. But that just means he didn't appeal to independents, not why. And, per folks like AFSCME who tried to get him not to run, perhaps the bigger problem was him not playing to the base well enough.

That said, this has to be a gut check for state Democrats. Barrett let Walker frame the debate. If he's really considered the best candidate for statewide office, you've got a thin bench.

And it's a gut check for unions, too, in Wisconsin and elsewhere. (In Wisconsin, Barrett pulled just 63 percent from union households, to boot; maybe AFSCME had good reason to be concerned. "Losing" Milwaukee police and fire unions didn't help.)

And, have you heard Dear Leader even use the word "union" recently?

We have a Green nominee

Dr. Jill Stein has officially clinched the Green Party presidential nomination. (This trumps Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beating a retread neolib Democrat who couldn't even win metro Milwaukee.)

Now, let's hope Green runner-up Roseanne Barr doesn't fade away, but works in Hollywood and elsewhere, recruiting disgruntled-with Obama celebrity liberals like Jackson Browne to the Green cause!

I mean, this is arguably, in major-party terms, the worst election since 1980, if not earlier. There's room for a Green surge.

Let us hope the Texas and national Green conventions adopt focused, fiery, sound left-liberal platforms, and immediately fight for Stein to get in the first presidential debate.

June 05, 2012

Morning-after pill apparently doesn't work

Whether this stills the abortion debate one bit or not, I don't know.

But, it's very interesting scientifically. The "morning after pill" apparently doesn't prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. And, it hasn't even been tested to that end.

Setting aside any pro-life rejoicing or pro-life furies, women who worry may need to try, I guess, morning-after RU-486? Maybe a "morning-after" low-dose version of it could be approved?

Then, there will be the battle for insurance funding of it.