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

November 09, 2012

"Independents" who want "more respect" than Biden should be barred from voting

I am reposting this with some updated information in italics.

After the vice-presidential debate, I said that I was so tired of this bullshit claim that Joe Biden was too disrespectful, or whatever.

Especially when it comes from "independent" voters who have either never seen a GOP Congresscritter on C-SPAN, Jon Stewart or YouTube, or else are actually not independent, but GOPers in either conscious or unconscious drag.

Well, it turns out that most of those "independents" are actually Republicans in drag, as exit polling and other surveys show.

That, in turn, leads to another question. Why are more and more people who clearly identify politically with the GOP refusing to admit that that is who they are?

My answer? They're embarrassed to be associated with the frequent bits of covert racism or covert sexism, and occasional bits of overt comments, especially on sexism but occasionally on racism, that come too often out of too many Republican mouths. 

'll venture most of these "independents" are middle-class, middle-aged, reasonably educated white women in small, but not too small, towns and suburbs who grew up Republican. They still accept most Republican values but are embarrassed at what today's GOP — and perhaps including their own husbands in that — has become.

Most of the blast that follows I originally directed at the clueless, while making a nod to the GOP-lite, too. However, I now address it to these "skirt-hiders." Just like conservative but non-nutbar Christians who don't do more to call out nutbar Christians, until these women do more to call out their party (and being women, threaten a Lysistrata if necessary) they deserve the blast, the contempt, that follows.

"True" independents who think politics should be "more respectful" than Joe Biden allegedly wasn't last night ought to be barred from voting until they read some actual American history. They should still be barred for about five years after that, until we determine that they've actually learned what old-time politics was about, first, and that they don't have an IOKIYAR meme floating in their minds somewhere. The combination of stupidity, naivete and self-righteousness of swaths of the American electorate is staggering, and belies the claim that the US is the "cradle of democracy."

Fake independents ought to be forced to have Todd Akins and Robert Mourdocks win every GOP primary in their region and state until they speak up.

Oh, and can we ban David Brooks from pontificating, too? He claims to be talking about Ryan in this paragraph, but the last sentence is clearly directed at the wrong person:
He was strong on Obama’s economic failures, strong on the Libya debacle (though why do candidates always cram too many topics into their answers early in any debate), and he did have a few chances to highlight the Obama campaign’s crucial weaknesses: the relative absence of any positive agenda and the relative absence of any large plans for the next four years.
David, we all know that it's Ryan/Romney that has not a relative, but an absolute, "absense of large plans." Raddatz repeatedly asked Ryan for some and he refused to give any. I think you, not Joe Biden, has visited Neptune ... and left part of your brain there.

Seriously, have these "independents" read nothing of Jackson et al in the 1924 presidential race, or Lincoln, even more in 1864 than in 1860 at times? Or, with substance as well as rhetorical heat, Lincoln-Douglas?

Or .... Ronald Reagan's "I paid for this microphone, Mr. Breen"?

More seriously No. 2 — on the other hand, many Democrats, including Dear Leader, want to be post-partisan politicians. No LBJ cut off Obama's pecker; he did it to himself.

More seriously, was moderator Martha Raddatz "partisan"? This left liberal who isn't voting for either Ryan/Romney or Biden/Obama says no, at least not in "normal" ways. More below the fold, some of which will be expanded into a separate post about her bipartisan partisanship.

Looks like #Petraeus was doing some extra 'surging'!

David Petraeus
Photo from Yahoo
CIA director, former Iraq War "surge" "genius" and former Afghanistan commander David Petraeus can now add "former" before his CIA title. He's announced his resignation, allegedly over an extramarital affair. Guess that spartan Army discipline of cold showers, 4 hours of sleep and such didn't pay off in the end, eh?

Here's Team Obama's initial reaction:
CIA Director David Petraeus has resigned, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a written statement Friday. The former Army general, who rocketed to global prominence as the man in charge of the "surge" in Iraq, quit over an extramarital affair, MSNBC reported.
"Today, CIA Director David Petraeus submitted his letter of resignation to the President," Clapper wrote. "Dave's decision to step down represents the loss of one of our nation's most respected public servants.
"From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one's country," continued Clapper, whose statement did not specify a reason for the decision.
Well, the White House didn't lay it on too thick.

The Guardian is doing a live feed of ongoing comment. Let's see what else is being said.

Other fallout? Obama will ask Leon Panetta to stay on a while at the Defense Department. Obama will look for somebody relatively young, highly "techie" and a fan of drones as Petraeus' replacement. MSNBC is saying Deputy Director Mike Morrell is a candidate for getting the job permanently. NBC broke the story and has Petraeus' resignation letter there.

And, I wonder how it found out. Interesting.

And, speaking of "surges," we obviously won't have a Petraeus for President push on the 2016 GOP side.

And, just maybe, his wife could look at those old MoveOn "Betrayus" ads?

Slate says it was his recent biographer that he was diddling. I've read "All In," and it was as gushing as hell. Now I know why. I did not know the title was literally true. And the subtitle of "The Education of David Petraeus" has some Lady Chatterly wink-wink to it, too.
It had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. Her book, co-written with Vernon Loeb, is widely regarded as a valentine to the general. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent 5-mile runs together.
Hey, "embedded" gets a whole new meaning, too!

Meanwhile, at least one left-liberal I know on FB is saying he doesn't believe this "official story" of Petraeus' resigning as CIA director. Great. Another liberal conspiracy theory.

Look, as I said, I found "All In" very gushy six months ago, and now I know why.

November 08, 2012

Team Obama vs. Mitch McConnell, round two

Actually, per the photo above, it won’t be just Team Obama trying to work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, aka the Turtle, during Obama’s second administration. The Wicked Warlock of the West, for this story line, will definitely impact the three gents in the picture, in large part through his promise to continue being an obstructionist.

First, Tin Man John Boehner. He’s got an even more radical GOP in the House of Representatives for the next Congress than he’s had the past two years. And, the only way he gets re-elected as Speaker is to suck up to them even more. Even if he wants to deal with Obama on a somewhat more moderate basis, and House rules don’t allow for a Speaker to be unelected, he is going to have a tough time finding compromise. That includes on the “sequester cliff” that is allegedly ahead, even though Obama’s own Catfood Commission idea is partially responsible.

A possible “silver lining” for Obama would be if he’s finally learned how to “work” Congress and can peel off moderate conservative Republicans (there are no truly moderate House Republicans) on some issues.

Arkansas Dorothy? I wasn’t totally joking. By the end of 2013, her public comments, and public interactions, will tell us more about whether or not she intends to seek the nomination in 2016, and if so, what her angle will be. Otherwise, the only woman I could think of to Photoshop was Nancy Pelosi, and couldn’t figure out a Mitch McConnell angle for her. In hindsight, Sen. Betty Crocker, Dianne Feinstein, would have been great. But, she’s not that recognizable.

But, since Nate Silver says Hispanic demographics and other things may give Dems a 3 percentage point advantage in popular vote split to winning 270 electoral votes, Hilary has to be entertaining sugar plum ideas about 2016.

Scarecrow Barry? Regular readers of my blog know my issues with him, and they start with him not having the gonads to stand up to Mitch the Turtle, on the one hand, and on the other, believing that he can charm birds out of the trees with his voice, messianic skills, etc. A sidebar to that issue is that I believe he’s overrated as an orator. Ironically, I think that is partially due to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” from following the oratorical disaster who first uttered those words, George W. Bush.

The Cowardly Reid? He raised Senate filibuster rules reform issues two years ago. Yes, it was partially old lions on his side of the aisle, as well as the GOP’s, who resisted. Fresh blood might go along. Some Democrats might say, “but what if we want to us it.” Problem is, you never have, not like the Turtle, and like junior Scarecrow Barrys, you never will.

Let’s see if he stands by his new promise to raise the issue.

Even Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute favors filibuster reform. He says start with requiring the minority party to have 40 warm bodies available to block cloture when they threaten filibuster would be a good starting point.

Will #wingnut #SuperPAC dineros ‘buy’ a #NateSilver type?

Wingnut Daddy Warbucks Sheldon Adelson and his wife,
Miriam, in February. And, what is it with rich conservatives
and horrible hair?/New York Times photo.
The New York Times, and others, are reporting that the Koch Bros. and other gazillionaires with their SuperPACs largely failed to influence the elections.

Columbia Journalism Review, which before the election was having wingnut troll commenters hit every post, saysmore of the same.

But, that said, just because Romney didn’t win, was the money so illy spent? Not necessarily.

In fact, looking beyond the presidential race, from wingnuts’ perspective, some money may already have been well spent.

The Citizens’ United ruling by the Supreme Court came down the pike early enough to have some influence on 2010 elections, not just for Congress, but state governments. That, in turn, being a decadal election, influenced state redistricting efforts.

And, if one looks beyond the presidential and U.S. Senate chess boards, House races Tuesday night have made Congressional Republicans even more wingnut and tea partier than the current Congress.

SuperPACs can fund other things. That includes lobbyists for redistricting at the state level.
And, if you pay more money for better software, and better analysis to feed the software, on gerrymandering, you get districts that favor incumbents even more. Democrats aren't excused, but the GOP seems to practice this more.

And, back to CJR and troll spam. I speculated that, just maybe, SuperPACs were paying people to comment there. If true, and if presidentially disappointed wingnuts double down in 2014, watch out.

And, there’s other ways Koch Bros. and others could redouble their efforts.

They already tried to do “spinning” pushback against polling analyst Nate Silver of 528 blog fame. And, speaking of spin, Silver noted, just before election day, than on online outcomes-betting websites, Romney had much better odds at Intrade than at other sites like Betfair, and wondered what was up with that.

But, speaking of Silver, here’s something else that could play out.

Remember a few years ago, the “scandal” about bloggers like Armstrong Williams getting paid by wingnuts? Why aren't the wingnuts’ moneybags “finding” Nate Silver-types who will take a few dinero, do a wingnut-pomo blend of snazzy language to hide "lying with stats" and going from there?

Yes, Real Clear Politics already exists, but it’s just a bit slanted, not “in the tank.” I’m talking the SuperPACs applying Big Tobacco/Climate Denial tactics and funding to polling analysis.

November 07, 2012

Yet another #SciAm #fail on #Prop37

Do I think California’s Prop. 37, which would have required labeling of foods with GMO content, was perfect? No. If you look at the language, it was indeed too vague.

That said, do I think scientists should cheer, as this Scientific American blogger says they should, over its failure? No.

I don’t believe in the “Frankenfood” idea that GMOs are ebbbill. However, I also don’t believe this, from SciAm:
The simple fact is that there is no evidence that GMOs, as a blanket group, are dangerous.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Peanut allergies have skyrocketed in the last 15 years. Now, there’s no proof that this is due to peanut genes being inserted in other causes allergies, but it is indeed possible for that to happen, if an allergen producing gene gets put into a new foodstuff. And, contra this link, I doubt that “FDA precautions” are that thorough.

That’s why this statement by Ms. Wilcox at Scientific American is also wrong:
There’s also another reason that GMOs aren’t considered dangerous: decades of scientific research support their safety. As Pamela Ronald, a UC-Davis plant geneticist, phrased it last year in Scientific American: “There is broad scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, no adverse health or environmental effects have resulted from commercialization of genetically engineered crops.”
Second, we know that, in the case of pesticides and herbicides, the issue of “combined influence” from multiple chemicals is in some cases worse than a single chemical alone. Well, what if an allergen-inducing gene gets its effects intensified by being inserted in another food?

Now, as an in-depth Wikipedia article notes, genetic modification may also reduce allergies. So, fine; Monsanto can label foods that way, if it wants.

And, as Wiki also makes clear, the real problem is the relative lack of testing in the US, and the degree to which the USDA is in Big Ag’s pocket.

So, while it may indeed be true that anti-GMO advocated spewed vitriol at scientists, or “scientists” as a class, it may also be true that “scientists” made tin-foil-hat accusations that don’t stand up in reality.

And, for Ms. Wilcox to trust testing, when, per one of the scientific group “no on 37” posts she links, all pre-market testing of GMO foods is voluntary, is … well …

It’s unscientific! Again, “centrists” want more testing, more free-from-industry testing, etc.

But, that’s not the only bone I have to pick. Bora Zivkovic, marketer of SciAm’s bloggers (that’s what he does, even if it’s not his title) accuses me of being “passive-aggressive” when I accuse SciAm of lying.

Well, it is, re the allergen issue at least.

That said, this isn’t the first ethics fail by that magazine.

I blogged in depth a few years ago about how it ran a special section, purported to be about electric cars. It called the Chevy Volt an electric, which it’s not, as part of the “review.” And, the special section was sponsored by … wait for it ..


That’s bad enough. Worse is that, at first, Bora didn’t even see how that could be considered an ethics problem, then refused to admit it was.

That said, he next says, in the current contretemps, “They’re just bloggers, they’re not our staff.”


They’re blogging on SciAm’s website. Even if they’re dumb enough to accept “visibility” as the only “pay,” it’s still SciAm providing the platform for that visibility.

And, that said, I’ve pointed out other SciAm blogger errors and ethical issues before.

Update: Mark Bittman has more on Prop 37 and related food labeling/control initiatives that were defeated. He agrees that Prop. 37 backers made errors, even egregious ones, but said that it wouldn't have mattered because Big Ag was determined to defeat ANY labeling issue.

And, he's right -- labeling means control, and that's the last thing Big Ag wants to let go of. Too bad "scientists," even if they think that Monsanto has ... oh, a few problems ... don't recognize the issue is far more serious.

November 06, 2012

I am 'officially' calling the election for Obama

Per Nate Silver of the 538 blog, Obama is up 5 points in Hillsborough County, home to Tampa. He notes it has been "correct" as a bellwether of the winner of Florida, overall, from 1960 on.

That 5 percentage point advantage is with 80 percent of votes in.

And, Silver notes that this may be in part due to Obama's work in getting out, and getting, the Hispanic vote. (In Florida, that's primarily his work in getting the non-Cuban Hispanic vote.)

Well, in that case, if Obama's doing that well with Hispanics, and apparently doing that well in Florida, unless Sheldon Adelson scared the hell out of a bunch of old Jewish voters, Ohio doesn't even matter.

The Hispanic vote guarantees Colorado and Nevada, if this result on Hispanics holds up nationally.

And, between that and Florida looking likely, and now, Denver suburbs going Obama ...

I am "officially" calling the election and saying Obama has won.

In Senate races, the Democrats look likely to at least hold their own, keeping a Democratic seat in Florida, the Lieberman seat in Connecticut, winning the seat in Indiana formerly held by the GOP's Lugar and Warren beating Brown in Massachusetts.

Could Obama be winning bigger?

Could Obama have won big time? Glenn Thrush in Politico argues yes, and I think he’s got a fairly strong case.

First, he notes that Obama’s debate whiff in Denver had multiple factors. One is incumbent-itis, which I expected to be a factor. However, for Obama, it was bigger than with Reagan vs. Mondale. It almost was as bad as Poppy Bush vs. Clinton.

Thrush says that Obama’s moodiness at times, plus his degree of introversion, added to it.

We’ve had introverted presidents before, but Obama is arguably far and away the most introverted president of the electronic media age. Nixon’s the only real competitor, I think.

Even after Denver, from introversion, moodiness, and a Poppy Bush-like WTF, Obama was slow to really hit stride on the campaign trail.

I still don’t think Obama could have done as well as in 2008. But, he could have had Ohio in the bag, made a positive case for stimulus spending, been in an undisputable lead in Florida and possibly leading in North Carolina, had he played things differently. This could have let him do the “positive campaign,” let Biden focus on the bad cop stuff, etc.

Obama then could have done Ali rope-a-dope against Romney, making him be the one to go more negative even earlier than he did.

Of course, all of this gets back to the point that Obama isn’t necessarily that good a politician. He’s not horrible, but he’s not fantastic. He won’t butter them up the same way Clinton did at times, and he won’t put their peckers in his pocket the way LBJ did.

As a result, per the rhetorical questions I’ve posed in the last couple of weeks, don’t be surprised if the Turtle, Mitch McConnell, continues to outmaneuver Obama in his second term.

November 05, 2012

My electoral vote predictions

I say it’s Obama 304, Romney 234 in the presidential election. Obama wins all the “swing states” except Florida, and takes the “Omaha EV” in Nebraska.

Beyond that? Here’s a couple more.

Here’s my other “electoral vote” predictions. Conspiracy theories alleged against the other half of the bipartisan divide - GOP 346, Dems 192. Actual conspiracies committed? GOP 458, Dems 80. (That's not counting the 538-0 conspiracy against third parties committed by both of them.)


Of Obama winning, 95 percent.

Of Obama finding a backbone and gonads, instead of a belief in his vocal charm, to stand up to McConnell in his second term? About 5 percent.

November 04, 2012

Thomas Frank nails why #OWS failed

With one failure, discussed below, Thomas Frank, in the new issue of The Baffler, has a great essay that largely agrees with me, and other critical observers such as Alexander Cockburn about why Occupy Wall Street failed as a movement. That’s along with taking well-earned potshots at people such as Chris Hedges for the massive amounts of ink spilled over a “movement” that hasn’t really … done anything! In fact, Frank semi-snidely compares OWS to the tea party. 

First, Frank says here’s what Hedges and other uncritical babblers were missing:
What we need to be asking about Occupy Wall Street is: Why did this effort fail? How did OWS blow all the promise of its early days? Why do even the most popular efforts of the Left come to be mired in a gluey swamp of academic talk and pointless antihierarchical posturing?
His answer? It focused on horizontal organizing, i.e., the “we have no leaders,” etc., while not actually focusing on what’s traditionally considered as “organizing,” and refusing to see the need for it.

More on that from Frank here:
To protest Wall Street in 2011 was to protest, obviously, the outrageous financial misbehavior that gave us the Great Recession; it was to protest the political power of money, which gave us the bailouts; it was to protest the runaway compensation practices that have turned our society’s productive labor into bonuses for the 1 percent. All three of these catastrophes, however, were brought on by deregulation and tax-cutting—by a philosophy of liberation as anarchic in its rhetoric as Occupy was in real life.
(Frank emphasis, not mine.)

Another way of phrasing this might be that the “eternal youth culture” many an old conservative feared would happen after Woodstock might be more likely post-OWS.

That said, by ignoring the presence of a security force guarding selected insiders, and other things, Frank fails to note that OWS had a “leadership” all along. And, so, he fails to answer the question of why this leadership eschewed traditional organizing.

For the reason that it has since the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle, which Frank does mention elsewhere as a precursor, though failing to draw the appropriate lesson.

These folks wanted, and got … anarchy for anarchy’s sake. And, by not admitting to being, or showing themselves as being, leaders, and by not striving for vertical organization, they couldn’t be challenged on this except by the ground-level OWS rubes, who had been successfully diverted into the task of horizontal organization.

Frank has another opportunity to dig deeper on the whole “no demands” issue:
This was an inspired way to play the situation in the beginning, and for a time it was a great success. But it also put a clear expiration date on the protests. As long as demands and the rest of the logocentric requirements were postponed, Occupy could never graduate to the next level. It would remain captive to what Christopher Lasch criticized—way back in 1973—as the “cult of participation,” in which the experience of protesting is what protesting is all about.
But he never asks if, just maybe, OWS’s leaders, since we know it had them, wanted the movement to stay in arrested development.

Frank does tangentially tackle this, as part of discussing OWS’ failure in more detail:
Unfortunately, though, that’s not enough. Building a democratic movement culture is essential for movements on the left, but it’s also just a starting point. Occupy never evolved beyond it. It did not call for a subtreasury system, like the Populists did. It didn’t lead a strike (a real one, that is), or a sit-in, or a blockade of a recruitment center, or a takeover of the dean’s office. The IWW free-speech fights of a century ago look positively Prussian by comparison.
With Occupy, the horizontal culture was everything. “The process is the message,” as the protesters used to say and as most of the books considered here largely concur. The aforementioned camping, the cooking, the general-assembling, the filling of public places: that’s what Occupy was all about. Beyond that there seems to have been virtually no strategy to speak of, no agenda to transmit to the world.
But, again, he leaves it there with only a “what” himself, and no “why.”

That said, Frank fails to note the whiter than average, better-educated by far than average, and presumably richer than average demographics of OWS, as I have done.

If Frank had noted the demographics more readily, he would have had more to explain why OWS “cadres” readily fell for the pomo academia — they’d heard it spouted for years and probably spouted some of it himself. He’d also have more explanation for them believing the cant of leaderlessness and more. See the “lazy libertarianism” below.

He does, though, note their strongly academic background, and how this lead to the postmodernist diarrhea we heard in general, not just the “horizontal organization.” Stuff like this:
And dear god why, after only a few months of occupying Zuccotti Park, did Occupiers feel they needed to launch their own journal of academic theory? A journal that then proceeded to fill its pages with impenetrable essays seemingly written to demonstrate, one more time, the Arctic futility of theory-speak?
So, to all the OWS fluffers still out there, call me back when there’s a real movement.

He finishes by noting that OWS had a lot of similarities with tea partiers … even similar quasi-Randian ideas. He adds this observation:
The reason Occupy and the Tea Party were such uncanny replicas of one another is because they both drew on the lazy, reflexive libertarianism that suffuses our idea of protest these days.
Agreed. With the tea partiers, it seems a conservative version of “The Secret,” mixed with get-rich-quick ideas that Rick Perlstein, in this same issue of The Baffler, says regularly get peddled by the rich

With OWS? Per my link above, I’ll venture it’s a mix of helicopter moms and some vague sense of “entitlement.”