SocraticGadfly: 10/7/12 - 10/14/12

October 13, 2012

Martha Raddatz — partisan for bipartisan 'establishment'

By that, I mean that vice-presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz was not partisan in the sense that she wasn’t in the tank for Joe Biden, but she WAS, as a lifelong member of the mainstream media, in the tank for the “bipartisan foreign policy establishment” (and to some degree for its domestic policy twin.

The questions she asked — and didn’t ask — clearly show that.

I already discussed this on her total establishmentarian, almost neocon-to-Zionist, wrongness on Iran being the top US national security threat.


Off the top of my head, here's the top US national security problems for now, the future or a mix.

No. 1 is Chinese cyberespionage, that may even be cyberwarfare at this point. Raddatz knows all about that. So, too do Tweedledee and Tweedledum. But, none of them want to talk about how compromised we may be.

And, that’s probably why Raddatz didn’t ask. That’s even though one good book I recently read but whose name escaped me, opens at night in the White House with lights flickering on and off, regularly, more than once. President Obama then gets a phone call.

It’s from the president of China, who simply says, “We need to talk.”

And, we DO! It was inexcusable for Raddatz to ask bupkis about China and foreign policy (or China and “free” trade vs. fair trade) in this debate.

No. 2 on top security issues? Global warming's fallouts, including food problems, massive population relocations, etc. Hell, the Pentagon knows this one. So does Raddatz. So do Tweedledee and Tweedledum. But Biden wants to skirt it, along with his boss, and Ryan is a wingnut denialist.

We should have seen Ryan being a wingnut, and Biden being a quiescent semi-fellow traveler. Raddatz could have given Joe a chance to defend Solyndra-type grants as a necessary risk.

No. 3? As the bipartisan foreign policy establishment seeks to internationalize the War on Drugs ever more, a failed-state Mexico, due in large part to that, could be huge.

Marijuana legalization of some sort — full legalization, not medical marijuana — is on the Novenber ballot in Washington State and elsewhere. Raddatz could have pinned Biden/Obama on how liberal is their liberalism and Ryan/Romney on the hypocrisy of selective commitment to states’ rights.

Beyond that, she should have been asking larger issues about the War on Drugs. As these referenda, and their support by mainly retired but even a few active law enforcement show, at least with marijuana, more and more Americans know the War on Drugs is a crock of shit.

No. 4 on security risks? From the greater Middle/Near East, an unstable, not to mention failed-state, nuke-armed Pakistan is far more serious than a stable Iran, even if it has nuclear weapons. Raddatz easily could have tied this to an Afghanistan question.

But, that’s not all.

Raddatz could have asked about Social Security — and forced Biden to defend his boss’s Catfood Commission as well as Ryan to defend privatization.

Again, yes, Raddatz was more aggressive in her questioning than the typical presidential debate “moderator,” let alone Jim Lehrer. It’s too bad she didn’t ask very many of the right questions.

Beyond this, Dems say Raddatz did such a good job because Biden won, and Lehrer did such a bad job because Obama didn’t. Whether with a laissez-faire get out of the way angle, or a Meet the Press-type grilling angle, both actually promoted to-and-fro more than some modern presidential “debate” moderators.

Problem was with Lehrer, just like Raddatz, in what questions got asked.

And, you know the corporate oligarchs of the Commission on Presidential Debates don’t want questions about the seriousness of climate change because it could affect their business models. They don’t want questions about Chinese cyberespionage because it’s done against corporations in the US, not just the government. They don’t want questions about the War on Drugs because they generally favor strong government police actions. And, they don’t want questions about Social Security because they favor having overflow in the workforce which lets them drive down wages.

#Anonymous needs to hack #Zuckerberg and petard-hoist

Wouldn't it be really cool if someone from Anonymous, or another high-grade hacker, could get all the info on all of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's credit cards. And, for good measure, could do the same with everybody in Facebook Marketing.

And, then, rather than just post that info on such a bulletin board, use it!

Use it to pay the $7 a pop for Facebook's "promote" button and use it about a bazillion times.

Then, threaten to rehack whenever Zuckerberg and his minions get new credit cards.

Oh, and if you think this should be shared, if you "@" both "Mark Zuckerberg" and "Facebook Marketing" on Facebook, it will tag them just like your friends, so you can share this message indeed.

October 12, 2012

The Nobel Peace Prize is officially irrelevant with EU nod

In 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee made the award to US President BarackObama, in what was arguably up to that date the most politicized peace prize award ever.

Obama had done nothing major up to that point as president to justify that award. Certainly, there was nothing earlier, in his background as US Senator, Illinois state senator or community organizer, to warrant that award.

What did he wind up doing? Well, the Nobel committee now has blood on its hands from a peace prize winner who has an official “kill list” for people to assassinate with unmanned drone aircraft, including a citizen of his own country. Along with that, the Nobel committee has blood on its hands from a circular argument lawyer president who claims everybody killed in a drone attack is a military target because … they were in the area of military targeting!

Fast forward three years to today, with the Nobel committee once again making itself into a collective political ass.

This year’s winner? The European Union.

First, contra the committee, its arguable that the EU hasn’t prevented wars in the past. Yes, the original Coal and Steel Community was supposed to bind West Germany to France tightly enough to prevent a future war.

Balderdash. What prevented Franco-German war was Germany being bound to NATO, not the EU or its predecessor.

And, to the degree that Europeans have helped prevent wars since the fall of Communism, or at least alleviated them, it’s always been under the aegis of NATO, not the EU. (A British commentator at the Telegraph agrees.)

And, today?

We have a supranational organization that, if it really wants to be a nation-state, is close to the “failed nation” status. It’s semi-clueless about monetary issues, and even more so about monetary issues and monetary union’s impact on political sovereignty issues. It’s also clueless about constitutionality fallout, except for in hindsight, EU leaders who admit the constitution they wrote is the equivalent of the toothless US Articles of Confederation. As a result, the EU could be diminished in size by loss of members in the near future, and therefore in stature as well.

European wags are already noting Nobel folks should go all in and give it the Prize for Economics at the same time.

Beyond waggishness, here’s a serious take:
“The Nobel Committee is a little late for an April Fool’s joke,” said Martin Callanan, a British member of the European Parliament and the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group. 

“The E.U.’s policies have exacerbated the fallout of the financial crisis and led to social unrest that we haven’t seen for a generation,” he said. “Presumably, this prize is for the peace and harmony on the streets of Athens and Madrid,” he added, referring to protests against austerity measures.

And, thus, back to the main issue.

Not only has the EU not done anything for peace in the past, its current austerity programs are actually unsettling Greece and may unsettle Spain. Given regional autonomy issues in Spain that are already being tied to this, it’s possible the EU may wind up actually contributing to low-level civil war of some sort in Spain.

Would a Romney win really matter THAT much?

As people like Nate Silver have now put both Colorado and Florida (slimly, in both cases) in Mitt Romney’s camp, can Preznit Kumbaya actually learn something from Joe Biden’s Veep debate performance?

Odds? About 50-50. You see, despite his own self-delusional belief, Obama’s not our first post-racial president. Now, his fervent wish is that he could be our first post-partisan president, and that’s even less true. But, he still has trouble leading, not just governing, but leading, as a partisan leader. He’s not the monarch of a constitutional monarchy, sitting above it all while passing out vague policy guidelines, as much as he might wish.

Let’s take the “under” and say Obama doesn’t do a lot better next time out, and that Biden’s performance doesn’t move the needle much and that, ultimately, Obama loses.

Well, short of massive vote fraud, if nothing else, there will still be at least 41 Democratic Senators in the next Congress.

But, even before that while Obama would still be president at the end of his one term, albeit with the new Congress in place for just over two weeks, the Bush Obama tax cuts will expire. If those 41 Senate Dems won’t filibuster to keep them from being re-instituted by a GOP House, Dear Leader can still veto that; I assume that 34 Democrats would have enough balls to uphold a veto even if 41 won’t filibuster, or filibuster threaten.

Beyond that issue, under a President Romney, as long as there's 41 Dems in the Senate willing to play hardball as much as McConnell and the Senate GOP has in the past, there's only so much that he could do.

Massive tax cuts? No.

Wingnuts on the high court? No. Wingnuts on lesser courts? No; Democrats could put holds on them or otherwise obstruct the way McConnell et al have obstructed Obama’s district and appellate court nominees.

And, if Senate Democrats are too high-minded, too stupid, or whatever, to play gridlock politics that way, then they need to get the fuck out of there anyway.

So, to be technical, let me rephrase.

A Romney win shouldn’t mean that much.

If he does win, and it does wind up meaning that much, it’s because too many Democrats have no balls.

And, if you insist on continuing to vote within the two-party structure, without fail and without reservation, you know who to blame if a lot of Senate Democrats don’t have balls, and it’s not third-party voters like me.

October 11, 2012

VP debate thoughts

First, regardless of my being liberal, yet my being a third-party voter who cares not a tremendous amount for the Obama Administration, let me stipulated that Biden kicked Paul Ryan’s butt on both style and substance tonight.

That all said, in both “chess match” and real politics terms, even as people like Nate Silver have now put both Colorado and Florida (slimly, in both cases) in Mitt Romney’s camp, can Preznit Kumbaya actually learn something from Biden’s performance?

Odds? About 50-50. You see, despite his own self-delusional belief, Obama’s not our first post-racial president. Now, his fervent wish is that he could be our first post-partisan president, and that’s even less true. But, he still has trouble leading, not just governing, but leading, as a partisan leader. He’s not the monarch of a constitutional monarchy, sitting above it all while passing out vague policy guidelines, as much as he might wish.

And, Mitt Romney is no crotchety John McCain, specific to debate issues.

That said, a few observations.

One, because Biden pretty thoroughly waxed Ryan on both style and substance, this Veep debate may move the public needle more than the typical one.

Second, there’s a few observations I have about debate content and questions.

A. Besides letting third-party candidates into debates, we need to have them "moderated" by somebody outside the mainstream media, especially re the bipartisan foreign policy consensus and its MSM enforcers. I mean, Iran is NOT, NOT, NOT American's top current foreign policy issue, unless you're a Zionist, a Zionist neocon, or a Christian "amen corner" neocon. Period. Food shortages globally, the effects of climate change are just two of several more important issues.
Let's add that someone like debate moderator Martha Raddatz either knows better or should know better that all the claims about how near Iran has been to nuclear weapons have been first, miscalculations, then, lies, for 25 years. (Andrew Rosenthal at the NYT is a fluffer.)

Off the top of my head, I can name several issues more directly impending on US national security than Iranian possible (and lied-about) nuclear arms development.

They include:
• Chinese cyberwarfare and cyberespionage
• Global warming and possible fallouts, including food shortages and mass migrations
• Possibly other industrial espionage issues
• And, facetiousness and sarcasm aside, but given where it led us in Iraq — Zionism.
B. I loved, or “loved,” both Ryan and Biden tap-dancing around refusing to admit the difference between Libya and Syria is that one has oil and the other doesn't. And, that Raddatz refused to call out both of them on a follow-up. The bipartisan foreign policy establishment’s hypocrisy on oil is ridiculous.

#BlackFriday suggestion at #Walmart

You know what would be cool, and much more effective, perhaps, than Adbusters' self-righteous snark? And might be more effective in at least the shorter term, and more awareness-raising, than HERE’s attempts to unionize Walmart employees?

That’s if lots of progressive Americans went into Walmarts across the nation on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, and did the no-buy loitering equivalent of a sit-down strike.

Think about it. You and I could just loiter in the aisles of Wally Worlds. It wouldn’t take all day, just a bit of dedication, maybe 15 minutes per person. Just loiter, while occasionally asking questions of staff. Make sure to be kind enough to tell them “no hurry” on answering your questions.

And, of course, there’s the online and telephonic versions of this, too. Call and/or email Walmart HQ up in Bentonville, Ark., on Nov. 23 as well.  (Here’s a webpage with some corporate contact information, including several Twitter accounts. Add in the investor relations and other contacts.) Tell the routine phone-answering people, again, “no hurry.” Better yet, tell them to “take all the time you want.”

But that’s not all.

There’s better monkey-wrenching to do, whether at local stores, or on the phone/online.

Ask questions about products. And not just any old questions.

Ask leading questions. These could be about product quality or safety. Or they could be human rights issues, asking if WallyWorld knows the detailed working conditions of the Chinese factory of origin.

Or ask WallyWorld if it still locks employees inside stores. Or whatever.

And, feel free to pass these ideas around now. That said, I’m not sure if Wally should get any too-specific inkling of such ideas in advance.

Light at end of tunnel for papers, and more new ideas for smart paywalls

Earlier this week, I blogged about how Matthew Ingram at GigaOm appears to have a Jeff Jarvis/Clay Shirky/Jay Rosen paywall-hating burr up his ass.

Well, per Ken Doctor at Nieman Labs, that’s a good description, because Ingram, a blind follower of the Three Musketeers of Gnu Journalism (deliberately ripped off, with same snarky intent, from Gnu Atheism) details several specific ways in which he and they are wrong.

First, especially at non-daily papers, the light is not only apparently at the end of the tunnel, but profits may actually pick up next year. As a result of that, newspaper stock prices (albeit from in-the-toilet lows) are soaring.

And, yes, even some non-dailies have paywalls. The light for dailies, definitely for smaller ones, and possibly for mid-sized ones, is at least probably getting near to a flattening out point.

Second, and directly related, Doctor details the economics of paywalls. There’s a variety of ways to skin the paywall cat. Most new adopters are going with fewer freebie reads than, say, the New York Times, and also a lot less leakiness. That includes not just small companies but as big a boy as Gannett. Doctor says opt-out provisions, in which hardcopy subscribers are automatically charged at least a nominal fee for digital access, are also growing. (I hate opt-out provisions in general, including this one, but … the idea is, nonetheless, growing.)

Third, the truth is what the Three Musketeers and hangers-on won’t tell you: paywalls are growing internationally, too.

But, even there, Doctor starts with the US side of the equation:
By the end of this year, figure that about 20 percent of the U.S.’s 1,400-plus dailies will be charging for digital access. Gannett’s February announcement that it’s going paywall at all its 80 newspapers galvanized attention; when the third largest U.S. newspaper site, the Los Angeles Times, went paid (in March), more nodding was seen in publishers’ suites.
But, that’s his takeoff point to note that (as of March) more than a dozen European dailies also had paywalls.

That, then, leads to the more significant issue. Doctor notes most paywalls are neither flaming successes nor flaming failures. So, why?
So if charging for digital access — a too long phrase, but one that’s most accurate than paywall — is neither a panacea nor a tombstone on the way to the inevitable, what is it? It’s a building block, and it’s a way to re-envision the business.
And, that’s a good point. 

Isn’t that type of creative thinking and re-envisioning what the Three Musketeers laud?

Short answer? Yes, as long as it’s done for free online.

That’s because they deliberately practice a selective quoting of only one of two sentences from Stewart Brand’s famous “Information wants to be free” comment:
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
Note carefully that first sentence.

Then, also per Wiki, and partially reflected on its original link, there’s the question about whether Brand meant free in terms of cost, or free in terms of access.

That, then, gets back to many critics of the Three Musketeers noting that two (Jarvis and Rosen) are paid academics, and at public, taxpayer-funded universities, no less, and therefore can easily afford to tell newspapers to let people be online leeches. Until 2010, Shirky was at the public Hunter University, so ditto on him. Let’s also not forget Shirky’s consulting for Libya’s former strongman Moammar Gadhafi, and his naivete about how autocrats could use social media to their own ends when queried about that consulting.

Update, Feb. 22, 2013: Massimo Pigliucci weighs in well on this issue. 

(Brand himself claims he's blamed for a lot of tech-neoliberalism stuff that is not his fault. The rest of that interview indicates he's lying to himself if he really believes that and lying to the rest of us anyway.)

October 10, 2012

#Monsanto #GMO — yet another reason not to vote for ... #Obummer

Field of soybeans/Image via Wired
Yeah, yeah, it’s a conservative name-calling word in the header. And, I hashtagged it for Twitter purposes etc. So sue me.

Let’s get to the meat behind the sizzle.

There is indeed yet ANOTHER reason not to vote for Obama — Dear Leader shows that Monsanto's lobbying dollars have paid off indeed. Team Obama has asked the Supreme Court not to intervene in a patent case that involves Monsanto Roundup Ready GMO seed.

Sadly, the appellate court already agreed with Monsanto, showing just how badly corporate-tilted our court system is becoming.

Think about it.

If Monsanto wins this case, it could not only sue any farmer ever found with Roundup Ready seed in his field, even if it was “commodity seed,” it could also sue the grain elevator from which that farmer bought the seed.

In short, the ruling Obama appears to want (Congress is NOT going to change this law, even if it is “better equipped than this court” to decide such things. That’s not to mention this argument is itself specious.
The administration told the Supreme Court in a filing that the justices should not concern themselves with the possibility that such rigid patent protectionism could undermine traditional farming techniques, where parts of one harvest are often used to produce the next. The administration said Congress “is better equipped than this court” (.pdf) to consider those concerns.

If the farmer’s view were adopted, the government argued, “the first authorized sale of a single Roundup Ready soybean would extinguish all of [Monsanto's] patent rights to that soybean and to its progeny.”
The result, if Monsanto wins this? It would be essentially to put farming areas of the country into a potential corporate-run serfdom.

That said, this isn’t all about Obama. Romney, or any other typical Republican, and many a typical Democrat, would probably mouth the same sentiments.

And, with that, a note to the normally skeptical Bob Carroll of Skeptic’s Dictionary fame, too. This is reason indeed to support more skepticism of GMO food and more regulation of it in general, including California’s Prop 37, even if it’s only slightly tangential to the patent suit at hand.

That’s despite Carroll saying he’ll vote no.

And, yes, Bob, I’m going to keep hammering you on this. It’s said that too many skeptics think too many people worried about GMO issues are tin-foil hat wearers, first of all. Second, it’s sad that this issue isn’t more carefully parsed into how it involves attempts by Big Ag to extend corporate control, whether or not we should be concerned about actual (transgenic allergy transfer, with good statistical correlation, if not yet the most solid causal correlation) and potential health issues, as well as lack of investigation, inspection and regulatory control.

It’s more than sad that Carroll puts his “vote no” statement under a subheader called “science as propaganda” and calls the measure “fear-mongering.”

The poor don't vote themselves welfare, just the middle class and rich

The so-called “Tytler Calumny” is the claim by the rich, and conservatives of various stripes, that a democracy will cease being a democracy when it becomes a social democracy of some sort and that the poor then start voting themselves welfare benefits.

My friend Leo Lincourt claims that blogger David Brin has, in this post, if not demolished this, at least severely damaged it. And, I beg to differ, at least in a tangent, if not a degree.

I’ll agree that Brin has refuted the alleged historical background of the quote:
First off, although named for a 19th Century Englishman Alexander Tytler, there is no actual evidence that Tytler actually said it! This aphorism is also often attributed falsely to historian Arnold Toynbee or Lord Thomas Macauley, or even Alexis de Tocqueville, although recent scholarship appears to follow a trail leading to a 1943 speech by one Henning Webb Prentis, Jr., President of the Armstrong Cork Company.
But, that’s not the big deal. The big deal is that the sentiment runs rampant in today’s conservative America.

You see, beyond the poor of all races and ethnicities hitting the polls at lower rates than the middle class or the rich, they don’t have the numbers that other socioeconomic groups do.

Or, I should say, socioeconomic group, in the singular. Almost everybody in America wants to identify as “middle class.”

And, from not wanting Medicare benefits adjusted (and it, unlike Social Security, does have issues financially) through wanting more college age to their kids, and on to wanting that mortgage deduction tax break, the middle class is ready to vote itself plenty of “benefits.”

And, so, it’s not the “sad cynicism of someone who considers himself above the hoi polloi,” contra Brin. It’s the sadder hard-heartedness of people who consider themselves above the poor while being hypocritical about burying their own faces in the hog trough.

Therefore, Brin would be wrong here, too:
In sharp contrast -- and reiterating because it bears repeating -- middle class folk understand debt, better than anybody.  They walk its minefields every single day.
That may be true of private debt, but … when survey after survey shows middle-class America vastly underestimating the amount spent on middle-class entitlements, while vastly overestimating that spent on “welfare” and on foreign aid (seen as “Third World welfare”), while perhaps also underestimating defense spending, and being clueless about middle-class tax breaks, it’s simply not true about middle-class understanding of government budgets and deficits.

So, this later part of that same paragraph is also wrong:
Railing against government, then suckling at its teat.  The middle class -- the citizens who make democracy work -- don't have that luxury.  That delusion.
Among conservatives, at least, the middle class engage in that same delusion. And, yes, while to a lesser degree than the rich, they’re sucking at teats, too.

Now, the rich don’t have the numbers of the middle class. Instead, the rich, and richer corporations, have the money to buy the muscle of lobbying and the muscle of campaign contributions. In exchange, the rich get plenty of “benefits.”

So, Brin may have refuted that Alexander Tytler wrote this. Did he refute the idea? No. Because he fell into the rich/conservatives trap of assuming it ultimately applies to the poor.

Beyond that, technically, and more than technically, we don’t have a democracy, we have a republic. So comparing the US to ancient Athens is weak at best and fatuous at worst.

Beyond that, like another republic, Rome in its later days, under the trappings of republicanism we have more and more oligarchy. Brin, if he’s as progressive as he tries to appear, knows that, or should.

He also stereotypes Bill Clinton as some white knight standing against corporate raiders. This is the same Bill Clinton who, with his minions such as Larry Summers, pushed for repeal of Glass-Steagall. Puhleeze.

Therefore, it’s NOT cynical to hold that a modern democracy without adequate economic regulations and checks, will run the risk of decay.

Specific to this, in the case of the rich, is my argument to end the charitable tax deduction.

US more of a police state, thanks in part to Obama; #VoteGreen

I guess, courtesy in part of then-Senator Barack Obama's HUGE flip-flop in summer 2008, we've officially come more of a police state here in the US. The US Supreme Court has upheld telecom immunity in telco companies (except, honorably, Qwest) warrantless wiretapping/snooping on American citizens.

This is yet another reason I tell people to vote Green, that is, Jill Stein for President.

I already, before the end of 2007, had “seen through” Obama to some degree, but his 2008 flip-flop on telco immunity was something concrete and empirical I could have in Obamiacs’ faces. And now, sadly, this is something else empirical to wave in their faces.

At the same time, as I tell libertarians, Paultards (who won’t listen) and the Glenn Greenwalds and Conor Friedersdorfs of the world, I want economic freedom, too, freedom from big biz controlling the future of the country. And, Gary Johnson or whomever of a libertarian bent isn’t going to give me that.

Meanwhile, indirectly related to Obama, here’s yet another reason, again, not to vote for either Tweedledee or Tweedledum ... current incarnation, or future representatives of either Republicans or Democrats — the fallout from "outsourcing" military functions.

That’s right, if you work for any contractor, toughshit if you get hurt in a war zone. Tough shit.
Now for the people who make $100K for Blackwater become Xe and now renamed Academi (Erik Prince, Wikipedia and everybody else know who you still are) I don’t feel sorry. But a truck driver for Halliburton making half that? Or less? Absolutely, this is wrong.