SocraticGadfly: 10/28/12 - 11/4/12

November 02, 2012

Nate Silver 'truthers'

Nate Silver. Photo via Alternet
If you have kept up at all with the Presidential election, and with polling for the presidential election, you’re probably pretty familiar with Nate Silver from the New York Times and his 538 blog on polling and related issues.

You may also be familiar with the pushback, and the attempt to work the mainstream media refs, by National Review, The Weekly Standard, Karl Rove (nothing new), et al.

You need to read this Alternet article. It’s true that these are “truthers” in the sense of 9/11 reality deniers being “truthers” in their conspiracy theories.

Now some, like Rove? I think they know and understand Silver’s methodology, and with them, it’s more and issue of “working the refs,” albeit more crudely and bluntly than ever before.

But, with tea party type rank and file? No, they’re really “truthers” on this issue. Read the column.

Public will pay for media content

A new survey says the public will pay for media content — if the need/reason is adequately explained.
"When participants were provided with a compelling justification for the paywall -- that The New York Times was likely to go bankrupt without it -- their support and willingness to pay increased," Cook and Attari concluded.
Again, take that Jay Rosen Jeff Jarvis Clay Shirky and other new media fluffers who tout "no paywalls" for selfish reasons:.
That said, the survey authors note that many people will believe the “information wants to be  free” quote out of context and misinterpreted means they should get newspaper stories for free:
Those publishers should also consider this cautionary note: a majority of The New York Times readers surveyed by Cook and Attari said they wouldn't pay for content and made good on their threat, often by switching to free providers. "The decline reported in our study is echoed in the decrease of over 3.3 million unique website visitors reported in The New York Times marketing materials between the spring of 2011 and 2012," Cook and Attari wrote.
Of course, with more and more papers adopting paywalls, that option is shrinking. The key will be AP (and Reuters and AFP) continuing to up their rates they charge news aggregators.

Back to the main thrust of the story.

Newspapers need to tell a compelling story about the need for paywalls, based on declines in ad revenue, cost of news production and other issues. That may include at least partially laying open the financial books, and explaining that some types of ad revenue, like classifieds and real estate, may never fully bounce back.

At the same time, this is an opportunity for a newspaper to increase its “community” angle, by inviting the community to see and understand more of the business model of its newspaper.

October 31, 2012

Jon Chait fellates Obama

Actually, it’s really no surprise that Chait, a definite neoliberal most comfortable at about The New Republic’s political slant, would claim that Dear Leader is a “great” president, let alone make a claim like this:
Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt.
That’s arguable at best. Chait says that LBJ’s accomplishments were offset by Vietnam without bothering to discuss whether they were greater or not.

And, if we use “greater” in terms of political realignment rather than “better for America,” Reagan had greater accomplishments, indeed. In fact, it’s Reagan, the Reagan whom Obama praised in 2008, that set constraints on what future Democratic presidents have tried to do, for the good, while bolstering some of what Democrats have done for the bad financially, like throwing out Glass-Steagall in Clinton’s reign, and Obama hiring Clinton’s finacial advisers and their followers, like Tim Geithner, quite possibly an unconvicted criminal.

And, while we’re on it, let’s not forget that Reagan, for worse rather than better, established the modern imperial presidency that thumbed its nose at Congress and the Constitution on war-making.

And, that leads to this.

Reality? Chait lists not one of Obama’s real “demerits,” such as expanding drone killings even to US citizens; calling anybody killed by a drone a “military target,” being more ruthless than Bush about “plugging leaks,” the shameful treatment of Bradley Manning, etc. And, all of that stems from St. Ronald of Reagan and his “record of accomplishment.”

He then, to excuse, I guess, Obama not doing more on anti-recession stimulus and other things, pens this:
How can a president “work his will” in such a way as to force autonomous members of the opposite party controlling a co-equal branch of government to sacrifice their own calculated self-interest?
Simple. Peeling off people where possible.

With the modern Senate, pushing Harry Reid to actually challenge a filibuster threat.

Making more use of recess appointments.

And, on that stimulus packages, several things:
1. Not using Clinton retreads who underestimated the size of the problem, and the size of the solution needed;
2. Listening to outsiders like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz who knew better;
3. Not “compromising away the compromise” for what he did decide to do, as Rahm Emanuel actually did, just to come in under $1 trillion.

Now, let’s look at Obama’s signature accomplishment of Obamacare.

First, since so much of it was backloaded to 2014 effective date, the jury’s largely still out.

Second, I’ve argued that, contra Chait, the cost controls in Obamacare aren’t as much as they are touted to be. And, given that Congress continually votes to cut Medicare payments to doctors, then takes that back every year, who’s to say how many of these cost containment items will stay in place?

Third, Obama didn’t take charge of this issue from the start, to some degree, and to an additional degree, he let known neoliberals, like “Mod Max” Baucus in the Senate run the show.

To be honest, given the circumstances, overall, I’d probably give Obama a “gentleman’s B” on domestic policy, NOT counting civil liberties issues. Note the “gentleman’s” part and that caveat.

The rest of his work? Let’s discount the actual value of killing bin Laden and give Dear Leader a straight D.

Obama and Biden ‘indicted’ by Larry Klayman

Apparently, with Election Day so close, beyond the pools of unspent money, there’s a competition for worst wingnut.

Well, Larry Klayman, billing himself as “citizen prosecutor,” is definitely in the running, having gotten a “citizen grand jury” to indict Obama and Biden.

No, really.

So, I have emailed him, at, to indict HIM!
Dear Mr. Larry Klayman:

I, citizens' prosecutor Steve Snyder, do hereby convene my Internet-based citizens' grand jury to indict you, Larry Klayman, for treason against the Constitution of the United States.

A duly notarized warrant for your arrest by the appropriate citizens authorities will be coming shortly.
Email him yourself. Use my name as “citizen prosecutor” or plug in your own.

How Romney can do 'fake momentum'

Here's part of why Mitt can pretend "fake momentum" by pretending he's competitive in Pennsylvania. It's next door to Ohio, where all the stops are being pulled out. Ads on Pittsburgh TV probably also go into SE Ohio, giving him a two-fer angle that way, too. The same is probably true in lesser degree of his claims that Minnesota is in play. It's next door to Wisconsin, the western portion of which gets Minneapolis-St. Paul TV. That's the reality. And, northern Iowa, with Iowa also a battleground state, gets TV from Rochester, Minn., in part, I think.

Now, does he have some embers of real momentum? Quite likely. Even Nate Silver won’t say that Romney has zero momentum everywhere.

But, this is the easy way to gin up fake momentum. That’s why Mitt isn’t claiming momentum in Nevada; Idaho and Utah are in the GOP bag, as far as coverage outside of Vegas and Reno within the state. Ditto on Colorado.

October 30, 2012

Rediagnosis ‘increases’ autism – most ‘autistic’ children probably have THIS or similar

A change from DSM-III to DSM-IV, and an "updiagnosis" from Asperger's to autism is part of the equation for an alleged "explosion" in cases of autism, Asperger's or both. So, too, is the fact that we don't really have a tight definition of what constitutes autism.

The “this” that's behind the change in diagnosis? Schizoid personality disorder. It’s been a recognized personality disorder diagnosis for decades.

In the DSM-III, the previous version to the current one of the American Psychiatric Organization’s “bible,” you can also see the diagnosis of schizoid disorder of childhood. (PDF of entire DSM-III.) In fact, different websites note this phrase was once used for Asperger’s syndrome.

And, here’s what DSM-III had as diagnostic criteria:
Diagnostic criteria for Schizoid Disorder of Childhood or Adolescence
A. No close friend of similar age other than a relative or a similarly socially isolated child.
B. No apparent interest in making friends.
C. No pleasure from usual peer interactions.
D. General avoidance of nonfamilial social contacts, especially with peers.
E. No interest in activities that involve other children {such as team sports, clubs).
F. Duration of the disturbance of at least three months.
G. Not due to Pervasive Developmental Disorder; Conduct Disorder, Undersocialized, Nonaggressive; or any psychotic disorder, such as Schizophrenia,
H. If 18 or older, does not meet the criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder.
So, we have a “relabeling” from DSM-III to DSM-IV on Asperger’s, which may easily be misdiagnosed as full-blown autism, and people claim there’s an epidemic, then start blaming vaccines, promoting alternative medicine, etc.

And, maybe sensory processing disorder is one of the things that some people call autism. And, there's debate over whether it is an actual "issue," as proponents try to get it in DSM-V.

It may not be called that, but maybe it is, in its more severe manifestations.

What if sensory processing disorder is one of the things that some people call Asperger's, if not full-spectrum autism. What if a child had sensory overload so bad as to have a seizure? And, had learning delays because of this? And were hypersensitive to certain foods?

At the same time, per a lawyer friend of mine with experience in various special education issues, sometimes, parents need the right "label" to get the right special services for their children. At the same time, she notes school districts resist such labeling, because they lose money on most special education services.

So, to Flavius and others, I am more than willing to see possible new treatments scientifically investigated. Let's stop promoting ones, or defending other people promoting ones, that have been investigated, but disproven. If true liberalism is going to be "reality-based," doesn't that have to apply across the board?

And, on DSM-V, what will be the low end of the "spectrum" in "autism spectrum disorder," anyway?

 Update, Oct. 30, 2012: Asperger's, whether or not it's really autism's diagnostic "cousin," is becoming more and more an in thing, as NY Mag shows in detail. Here's Tyler Cowan, bidding for Jonah Lehrer or Malcolm Gladwell status on the TED circuit:
In his zeal to present autism in a positive light, Cowen flirts with dottiness, writing things like, “Autistics are the culmination of Buddhist thought and indeed Buddhist practice,” and coming very close to diagnosing the entire country of Finland as autistic.
Oy. Vey.

Update, March 2, 2010: Meanwhile, due to fear tactics of people like Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy, one in four parents are afraid to vaccinate their children.

One good thing? Some doctors are refusing to treat anti-vax parents or their children any more.

Update, Jan. 6, 2011: Well, we know now that the lies of Andrew Wakefield involved deliberate fraud.

Update, Feb. 9, 2010: Per previous speculation on my part, part of the rise in autism diagnosis that is actually an increase in autism cases is linked to older parents.

But, note that it's both parents and not just mothers.
“It’s important we not turn around and blame mothers,” Dr. Dolores Malaspina said. “The evidence is very, very strong that there is a paternal age effect.”
That said, the researchers said the parental age effect does not account for all the increase in diagnosis.

Of course not.

Going by what you can find around the web about adult-manifest SPD, I offer these insights:

Causes? Unknown but likely multivalent. A relative with schizophrenia increases the likelihood for SPD, which indicates some genetic background. Environmental factors are likely involved. The time crunch of modern parenting may be a factor.

I will certainly venture that the increased genetic fragility of more and more women having later-life pregnancies is an issue. There may also be genetic fragility issues, or uterine stress issues, with test-tube conception.

And, without being too Freudian, other parenting and home-life issues may be contributory in many cases.

And, color me skeptical in another way about the uptick in diagnosis, whether of Asperger’s or full-spectrum autism. Who is making such diagnoses? Medical doctors? Or chiropractors, homeopaths, chiropractors and other voodoo practitioners?

Treatment? Talk therapy. Of course, schizoids are loners, so it’s tough to get them to stay in too long in one-on-one therapy. In group therapy, they may simply let others talk more and stay silent.

Medications are not indicated unless other mental health issues are also involved.

Update, March 4:

Per comments, it is true that I don't have exact numbers of schizoid disorders of childhood. But, even a quick Google search led me to find that in Great Britain, a country with about 18 percent the population of the US, multiple research studies of children diagnosed with SCD; I also found one from Denmark. This should indicate the diagnosis was NOT uncommon.

And, for anyone defending the idea of an “autism epidemic,” YOU don’t have numbers. Or, even if you’re defending the idea of anything close to that.

You admit yourself that we don't know what autism is. And I show one likely vehicle for how what “autism” wasn't has become what “autism” is.

The bottom line is this:

Per Carl Sagan, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. (And, since we’re talking science here, that evidence must be scientifically verifiable.)

Claims of an “autism epidemic” are certainly extraordinary. Such claimants therefore have the burden of proof for producing a scientifically verifiable cause of such an epidemic.

So far, they have failed utterly.

I offer the alternative of how a psychiatric rediagnosis, combined with a possible medical updiagnosis, may be a significant cause of an alleged “autism epidemic,” along with offering a possible empirical cause for any increase that may be real – that empirical cause being more and more late-fertility age births by mothers in the developed world.

And, the fact that Asperger’s is listed as a condition in DSM-IV opens a whole new can of worms. Is it, or “autism,” a physical or a mental disorder?

Update, Feb. 3, 2010: As to what may be causing an increase in actual cases of autism? I do think that, after you subtract out the above, there is such a thing.

Like some other childhood fragile-genes syndromes, it's more older, i.e., post-40, parents, both men and women, in the western world having babies, per the above link, which shows a statistical correlation. That includes you, Jenny McCarthy. Not to be too harsh about it, but, look in the mirror as part of your blame-casting.

Finally, let's note, as the American Psychological Association now works on DSM-V, that in the non-nutter, but profit-driven, world, though the APA denies it, DSM-V and its process of editing and formulation is connected indeed to the pharmaceutical and the insurance industries.

Update, March 2, 2010: The mainstream media is starting to challenge Jenny McCarthy on this issue.

Update, March 30, 2010: Salon does a great job of showing how she can't even keep her nuttery straight.

October 29, 2012

Is Obama full of crap on race issues?

A new AP poll, using test questions designed to elicit, even if a person consciously claims otherwise, one’s attitude toward other races, shows that racial prejudice hasn’t gotten any better since Obama got elected.
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And that means …

Either our "first post-racial president" is ignorant of this face, or he’s whistling Kumbaya in the dark, or he’ full of shit, or some overlapping mix, when he claims to be a post-racial president.

My take? I'd say 60 percent full of shit/40 percent whistling Kumbaya.

And, this fear of looking like “angry black man” bullshit? First, I’ve not heard White House insiders claim it’s a “driver” for Obama. That’s why I guesstimated the percentages as I have.

Second, even if it were, I don’t think Obama “does” angry that much.

Third, even if he did “do” angry on occasion, he’s not going to lose most independent voters inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, or the more conservative folks inside the Democratic party.

Instead, he’s just going to let tea partiers and more genteel-style old-line GOP racists offer up “I told you so” comments.

So, the 40 percent Kumbaya represents my thought that he does have a “messianic healer/unifier” strain in him. I think that, in turn comes from a mix of childhood development/psychology and deeper personality.
But, the 60 percent full of shit? It’s related to Obama being a post-racial president, in fact, in some sort of internal neoliberal-type reality in his own mind.

And, with that, I think the 60 percent “full of it” is almost entirely politically driven, but the 40 percent is at least partially the real Obama.

More thought on the issue of whether or not Obama has trouble accepting that he isn't a "post-racial" president. Here’s the fired African-American Department of Agriculture employee, Shirley Sherrod:
Sherrod still supports Obama and plans to vote for him. But, as she later wrote, she now worries that a president once thought by many to transcend race was actually “terrified” by it.
That’s a pretty strong statement. I wonder what, in private, some of his Chicago black supporters would say.

Anyway, start from the beginning and read the whole WaPost article. It’s pretty good.

More thought on the issue of whether or not Obama has trouble accepting that he isn't a "post-racial" president. Here’s the fired African-American Department of Agriculture employee, Shirley Sherrod:
Sherrod still supports Obama and plans to vote for him. But, as she later wrote, she now worries that a president once thought by many to transcend race was actually “terrified” by it.
That’s a pretty strong statement. I wonder what, in private, some of his Chicago black supporters would say.

Yes, Obama has “upbraided” black critics like Cornel West. But, has he been even 10-20 percent open to their criticisms?

As for West, the encounter left him speechless, “cool on the outside but burning inside,” he said.
Thin skinned, perhaps?

Also, perhaps reinforcing Obama’s self-perception as messianic, plus everybody’s take on him now as idealistic but very non-confrontational, is this:
Clayborne Carson, the Stanford University historian tapped by King’s widow to archive and study King’s papers, said Obama seems to relate most closely to King’s earlier approaches, when he focused on more universal themes and tried not to alienate whites. King took greater risks later in his life, Carson said, launching the Poor People’s Campaign and opposing the Vietnam War.
“What we’re seeing is [Obama] likes the early King, which was about coalition-building and the idealistic things he talks about in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Carson said. “But the later King, where he begins to realize that you have to confront the realities of American society and you can’t just wish them away, that’s where they differ.”
And, Obama isn’t going to change.

Anyway, start from the beginning and read thewhole WaPost article. It’s pretty good.