Archive for March, 2011

Rand

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Yeah, sometimes I like that crazy guy from Kentucky.

Tuesday Linkorama

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Non-Political links:

  • This may be the most depressing thing I’ve read today — we were apparently 1.4 inches away from preventing the BP disaster.
  • I always knew Rachel Ray was a monster.
  • Political links:

  • Two from Glenn Greenwald today on how our President has, as I feared, decided that the November elections were not a call for reigning in government, but for expanding its reach. He’s now limiting Miranda rights for terror suspects arrested in this country and appointing the chief psychiatrist who designed the torture regime to a position of power.
  • For once, I’m going to disagree with Veronique De Rugy, who claims that nuclear power can’t compete with fossil fuels. This is true, technically. But fossil fuels have a massive cost — pollution, death and global warming — that is not being charged to its consumers.
  • Tax the rich? We already do.
  • This just in. Donald Trump is an idiot. So is Newt. Or, at least, they pretend to be because they think so little of us.
  • Friday Linkorama

    Friday, March 25th, 2011

    Non-political Links:

  • Yet another epic fail from NYT.
  • This is why one of the great moments in my life was the day I had my own laundry room.
  • The happiest man in America, apparently.
  • Political Links:

  • It’s not a good idea to have very few IPOs on Wall Street. It means more of our economy is being controlled by fewer people. Blame Sarbanes-Oxley.
  • Hugo Chavez, probably joking, says capitalism killed life on Mars. It would be funny except that communism, like the kind he supports, killed tens of millions right here on planet Earth.
  • The best thing about Barack Obama’s turn against civil liberties, embrace of War on Terror excesses and starting of an unapproved war in Libya is that it has exposed many of Bush’s critics for the partisan shills that they were (while also highlighting those who had genuine principles). The worst thing about it is that it has caused Bush’s minions to gloat about how right they were, even as every day that passes proves how wrong they were. Obama had a chance to change the course of history; his decisions have instead sealed in place the dumb decisions that Bush made. In my book, that’s almost worse.
  • Coal. vs. Nukes. A comparison.
  • Monday Linkorama

    Monday, March 21st, 2011
  • I missed you, baseball.
  • My love of Looney Tunes makes me giggle.
  • More from JoePo on the Bonds trial.
  • Political Links:

  • Resilient Japan. The stats on Bangladeshi cyclones are amazing.
  • The latest travesty from the eminent domain files.
  • Now Obama is turning the IRS loose on medical marijuana. Great. Just great.
  • Just a reminder that TARP lost money and lots of it, no matter what spin doctors say. The biggest losses to our bailouts were, of course, for political entities like the automakers and Fannie/Freddie.
  • At some point, the Supreme Court is going to have to rule that free speech applies to the internet as well.
  • Shit like this is why Newt will never be President.
  • This kind of stuff can drive you nuts. Yes, the government should sell off some of the land it owns. But it will bring in $1 billion. That’s not how we’re going to balance the budget. And since it isn’t, why prioritize it?
  • Everyone Panic!

    Saturday, March 19th, 2011

    Cross-posted from the other site

    I’ve avoided saying anything else about Japan’s nuclear situation since, every time I do, things seem to get worse. But I have to break my silence today due to the pure hysteria of the reporting.

    Japan’s nuclear and industrial safety agency on Friday raised the level for the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from a 4 to 5 — putting it on par with the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island.

    According to the International Nuclear Events Scale, a level 5 equates to the likelihood of a release of radioactive material, several deaths from radiation and severe damage to a reactor core.

    Chernobyl, for example, rated a 7 on the scale, while Japan’s other nuclear crisis — a 1999 accident at Tokaimura in which workers died after being exposed to radiation — was a 4.

    In Pennsylvania, a partial meltdown of a reactor core was deemed the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history.

    OMG!!!1! It’s as bad a three-mile island! An incident that resulted in … no deaths from radiation. In fact, it’s probable that the hysterical reaction to TMI caused more health effects through stress and fear than did the meltdown.

    We’re my see a similar relation — more deaths from fear than radiation — emerge with Fukushima. Media hype, for example, has prompted a run on iodine tablets in California. Potassium iodide is not a medication you should take unless you have to, since it can have adverse health effects, especially for pregnant women. People can and have died from allergic reactions to it.

    It’s even worse in Europe, where hysterical anti-nuclear forces in Switzerland, Austria and Germany are gearing up to make sure those countries replace their nuclear plants with fuel guzzling, filth spewing fossil fuel plants. Germany is switching off their reactors temporarily, an action which makes me think that Angela Merkel, a quantum chemist, needs to go back to university and have her head examined.

    In the meantime, as Gregg Eastebrook reminds us, the media are almost hyping a potential disaster over the actual catastrophe — a massive earthquake and tsunami that’s left 10,000 dead and half a million homeless. That’s what we should be expending our sorrow and concern over. Here is just one story, about 30 children waiting for parents to show up — parents who may never show up because their bodies are somewhere in millions of tons of rubble. Last night, I saw a man whose entire family — wife, kids, grandkids — was washed away. He was trying and failing to contain his overwhelming grief. How do a few stray isotopes compare to that kind of unthinkable tragedy multiplied on such an epic scope? They don’t.

    Meanwhile, back in reality, the nuclear situation may be improving, with power restored to at least four of the six units and water being sprayed on unit three’s spent fuel pool, the most dangerous threat the Japanese are facing due its use of plutonium. It’s going to be a long slog and there’s still a potential for disaster. But less hysteria and more reporting would be wise from this point on. The fact that this disaster has been moved up on an arbitrary scale (“I give Fukushima a 5 but I can’t mutate to it.”) is something that is of importance to historians and nuclear regulators.

    The enviros do have one point — it is time to reconsider nuclear power. It’s time to consider that a 40-year old archaic design has — so far — weathered one of the worst natural disasters that could be thrown at it. It’s time to consider replacing similar reactors with more modern designs, such as pebble bed or thorium reactors. And time to remember the real story that’s jumping out at me from the Fukushima situation — the Big Damn Heroes who are doing their best to keep this situation under control. I have no idea what kind of civilian medals the Japanese government gives out . But anyone risking having his gonads fried to help prevent a disaster deserves every one they can find.

    Exit link: Jesse Walker on how resilient Japan is. Contra western reports, there has been some crime and looting. But the vast vast majority of the Japanese are helping each other out — which is what civilized people do in almost every crisis. I have recently become extremely annoyed at the Hollywood cliche of people screaming and running whenever there is a danger. In dangerous situations, people tend to either act calmly or freeze up. If you can bear it, watch some footage of 9/11 and count the number of people following the Hollywood cliche. You may not even need to take your shoes off to keep track.

    The world does not work like it does in a Comac McCarthy book, no matter how much the media wishes it did.

    Update: Gregg Eastebrook again. He points out that the biggest problem in Fukushima are the cooling pools for the spent nuclear fuel, a problem we also have in this country. Of course, we wouldn’t have as much of a problem if Obama had not, for purely political reasons, cancelled the Yucca Mountain facility, a repulsive decision I’ve previously taken him to task for.

    Party of science, my radioactive ass.

    Wednesday Linkorama

    Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

    Mostly politics today, I’m afraid:

  • I’ve been hammering this over at the other site, but it’s worth repeating here. The Fukushima meltdown does not prove we need to give up on nuclear power. A 40-year old plant was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in the last century and is still very likely to end up with, at most, a few casualties. This is nothing compared to what fossil fuels cost us. And alternative energy just isn’t ready for prime-time. Nuclear — especially newer and safer nuclear — is the best option we’ve got. Not that cool heads are preventing stupid panic in this country.
  • You know, he does sometimes make it hard to dislike him.
  • In other news, Nanking-denying Shintaro Ishihara is still a jackass.
  • The latest from Arpaio’s banana republic.
  • I’ve suspected for some time that the supposed growth in equality was the result of tax code changes.
  • Yet one more reason not to live in Illinois. If only there were some prominent Illinoisan who could take a stand against this bullshit.
  • TNC argues that White Flight didn’t just happen.
  • Sendai in Ruins

    Sunday, March 13th, 2011

    Stunning pictures of Japan’s earthquake. And you can check out the NYT’s before and after slider. Sendai was a city of a million people. Now it looks like Lemay came back and fire-bombed it. Japanese officials are saying at least 10,000 are dead. I’ll be stunned if it’s under 50,000 when all is said and done, each of those deaths a horrific tragedy like the story I read this morning about a woman who lost her grip on her daughter’s hand. It’s only because of Japan’s relentless preparedness and response to the Kobe quake that’s it not worse.

    Weekend Linkorama

    Saturday, March 12th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Well, there goes my month.
  • This ability of people who talk completely out of their ass to land gigs advising people on subjects about which they know nothing is astounding. A generation ago, it was ritual child abuse. Now it’s terrorism.
  • Political Links:

  • While I think Radley Balko has a point that the harsh (but not torturous) treatment of Bradley Manning is because he exposed public officials as petty and crude, I suspect the larger factor is that Manning is in military confinement. They tend to take a much harsher view of those who betray trust. And they act accordingly.
  • Yet more on why free trade is awesome. The telling fact: ipad’s supposedly add to our trade deficit by being manufactured overseas. But that $6.50 of trade “deficit” enables $178 of prosperity in this country.
  • The New York Times twists itself into pretzels trying to sustain their liberal ideology.
  • I don’t think the rise in minimum wage is the reason low-wage jobs have disappeared. But it hasn’t helped.
  • Barack Obama, Defender of Science, is forbidding research into whether medical marijuana works. For the children!
  • Snowbound LInkorama

    Monday, March 7th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Now, this is fascinating. It turns out the seminal experiment that proved that men will go for casual sex, but women won’t — was asking the wrong questions.
  • Maggie McNeill strikes again, his time pointing out that oral sex was not invented in 1969.
  • Political links:

  • When you’re LIbertarian, everyone hates you.
  • The Florida Highway Patrol engaged in racial profiling and spending $32,000 to stop … $16,000 in counterfeiting.
  • How over-regulation is creating a shortage of medicine.
  • Epistemic Closure Watch

    Saturday, March 5th, 2011

    Two examples — one from the Right, one from the Left — are indicative of one of the biggest problems in politics today — the refusal to withdraw bogus arguments from the debate.

    First, the Right. Hot Air approvingly posted video of two senators ganging up on Barbara Boxer on the subject of “global cooling”, getting her to admit this was a theory in the 1970′s.

    This is a perfect example of what I’ve come to call the Global Cooling Acid Test. In the 1970′s, global warming theory was maturing. For a brief period, however, the existing data indicating a potential cooling trend. Some scientists thought this might be due to aerosols in the air. The alternative theory grabbed some headlines because of a potential Ice Age. But it was never consensus science. Global warming theory was much more widely accepted.

    This point is so clear and so well-documented that there is no reason to keep bringing it up. And frankly, even if global cooling had been consensus science, we’ve had 40 more years of data — including all of the satellite data — to support global warming theory. Using global cooling to debunk global warming — even if global cooling had been consensus, which it wasn’t — is like using the failure of the ether theory to debunk relativity. Or the nebular theory to debunk Galactic evolution. Old theories are replaced by better ones when better data come about.

    There are legitimate criticisms of AGW theory — the quality of the temperature data, the dendrochronology data and the ability of models to predict the future. And, indeed, these are the criticisms real skeptics focus on. But global cooling is not a legitimate criticism.

    (Nor, it seems is Climategate, which even James Inhofe’s requested investigation has concluded does not debunk climate change, although it does show arrogance, presumption and sloppy work on the part of key climate scientists — enough, in my opinion, to warrant hesitation on economy-changing carbon schemes.)

    I find the use of Time and Newsweek covers to “prove” that global cooling was consensus to be particularly hilarious. These magazines have a long history of panic-mongering cover stories that turn out to be complete garbage (or maybe I missed the great Pokemon massacres of the last decade).

    The global cooling thing does brush against something more germane — the 1970′s and 80′s panic about overpopulation, which was (a) consensus science; (b) the source of numerous and sometimes horrific proposals for changing human society; (c) as early as 1980, obviously wrong. In fact, it’s a big reason why I remain skeptical of long-term climate projections.

    But it’s a little harder to draw the connection between people extrapolating population growth and a scientific theory now supported by the preponderance of evidence. Moreover, it’s not on the list of talking points and global cooling is.

    In the AGW debate, the mention of global cooling is a sign that someone isn’t paying attention — that they have a list of talking points they like to run through and no amount of debunking is going to pull things off that list.

    The Left is not immune to this, however. Charles Johnson, reasonably bashing Republicans for including poison control centers in their list of budget cuts (although it behooves me to point out that PCC’s were not federally funded until 2000), has his list of items in the Republican Party’s “War on Women”. Here’s the list

    Trying to defund Planned Parenthood

    Trying to redefine rape to deny abortion funding

    Trying to pass laws that would require investigations of all miscarriages

    Trying to pass laws that would legalize killing abortion providers

    Trying to define ‘human life’ to begin with a fetal heartbeat

    Calling two fetuses as ‘witnesses’ to anti-abortion hearings

    Trying to pass laws to outlaw federal funds for contraceptives

    Trying to pass laws that would allow hospital ERs to let women die rather than provide abortions.

    Some of these are true — the GOP has tried to cut PP’s funding and one legislature wants to outlaw abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected (and did indeed call two fetuses as “witnesses”). They have tried to cut family planning and birth control plans for poor people. And their proposal would have taken the conscience provision that allows federally funded hospitals to refuse to provide abortions and extended it to refusing to provide them in emergency situations. I’m opposed to most of this, to varying degrees. Almost all of it is unlikely to become law; but it does represent bones being thrown to an increasingly influential and deranged radical religious wing of the Party.

    But others are wild exaggerations. For example, the GOP did not try to “redefine rape” — they tried to change what the federal government would fund abortions for. Rape, the crime, is defined by state law. Rape, what the government will pay for an abortion for, is defined by the feds. I thought was really stupid and offensive, but it was not “redefining rape”. And it’s ridiculous and inflammatory to keep referring to it as such. “Tried to cut abortion funding for rape victims” is perfectly accurate and conveys what they tried to do. We can do without the bullshit.

    The miscarriage law is indeed real and is indeed stupid. On the other hand, it is not exactly a GOP party platform plank. It’s being proposed by one stupid Georgia state senator who has tried and failed to get abortion outlawed at every session. Branding it as part of a GOP “war on women” is the flip side of Republicans insisting that AGW theory is a plot to destroy capitalism. Yes, there are some people using AGW to advance statist ideas. And yes there is at least one Republican who wants to outlaw miscarriage. But every party has their ignorant dipshits; do we need to let them define the debate?

    Finally, we get to what provoked this post — the charge that Republicans want to legalize the killing of abortion doctors. This is the sort of claim that is a litmus test for partisan derangement. People who hear it and immediately say, “Oh my God, we’ve got to stop this!” have failed. Success is earned by saying, “really?!” and then finding out, as one blogger did, that this is simply not true. (And even it were, the likelihood that it would pass the legislature and be accepted by the Courts is zero.)

    But I guarantee you that it will continue to show up in “War on Women” posts just as global cooling continues to show up on “Global Warming is false” posts. Because the people who write these posts do not care about the debate — they care about bashing “the enemy”.

    The difference between rational debate and demagoguery is that the rational debaters — and there are many — will admit when an argument they have used is bogus. I know these arguments intimately with global warming because I used to make many of them myself. But the demagogue really doesn’t give a shit. He has his list of talking points and he will stick to them. No matter what.

    Mathematical Malpractice: Wisconsin Edition

    Saturday, March 5th, 2011

    Even Paul Krugmann has fallen for the canard that Wisconsin students, thanks to their unionized teachers, outperform everyone. Iowahawk above demonstrates that this is a result of mathematical malpractice — mostly failing to account for differences in testing regime and minority enrollment. Even the author of the studies Krugman references admits that the wrong point is being extracted from them, according to Factcheck.org.

    At what point does continually presenting the wrong facts cross the line into deliberate deception?

    Mostly Politics Linkorama

    Friday, March 4th, 2011

    Sorry. Politics on the brain this week.

    Non-political link:

  • TNC reminds us of who the real victims are in the Charlie Sheen saga.
  • I find the Pompeii bodies oddly fixating.
  • Political links:

  • Chris Dodd is a shill? I’m shocked that the man who sold our economy down the river to banking interests and then wrote the financial reform bill to protect those interests would do such a thing!
  • Dalmia on why we shouldn’t fear China or India.
  • I think Will makes a great point here. Many of the people who accept the consensus on global warming refuse to accept the consensus on free trade — which is even more of a consensus than global warming is. However, it bears pointing out that skepticism about free trade is simply endemic. From ABC to that idiot Donald Trump, myths about free trade, trade deficits, American manufacturing and basic economic go unchallenged.
  • Speaking of myths, a commentator is having trouble getting away with blatant lies about the connection between video games and sexual violence. We need a hell of a lot more of this. TV commentators — left and right, on every subject — are allowed to spew all sorts of lies. I’m glad this one is getting challenged but Lieberman’s lies are small potatoes compared to what’s out there.
  • The fighters vs. the fixers: this says a lot of what I think about the GOP. There are a lot of guys out there who just want to “get” Obama; for whom this is all a game. But there are also those who want to, you know, govern.
  • I think Reason hits an important point here. The thing people fail to realize about Wisconsin is that union support in elections was bought with promises that could never be kept. And now both sides are left holding the bag.
  • I love the idea of NASA handing off as much of its duties to the private sector as possible.
  • Ten reasons to cut funding to PBS. The most compelling argument for me is that federal PBS/NPR funding is, in essence, a subsidy for the wealthy. Doesn’t the Left oppose subsidizing the wealthy?
  • Last of the Doughboys

    Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

    I write this every time it happens, but I am always saddened when one of the last of the WW1 veterans goes. I find theme so fascinating. I can’t imagine that in the hell of 1918, they ever thought they’d live to see 2011. Born into an age of warring empires, they lived to see a world nearly at peace. In this case, he not only survived WW1, but survived imprisonment by the Japanese in WW2.


    Tuesday Linkorama

    Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

    Non-Political Links

  • Jesus, what the hell is wrong with people?
  • For once, I agree with Richard Dawkins. Our society’s bizarre obsession with rules and the mindless enforcement therefore is bizarre and damaging.
  • A stunning picture of Christchurch after the earthquake hit. Christchurch is a lovely town and I had the best lamb vindaloo ever there. Hopefully, they’ll be back on their eet soon.
  • I have no idea if this is a reasonable response to Wired’s latest hysteria. But it’s something that should be looked at, right?
  • Political Links:

  • Rick Santorum: please just go away.
  • Remember: according to trial lawyers and their dog-washers, there is no such thing as defensive medicine.
  • I’m really starting to like Maggie McNeill’s blog on prostitution. Last week, she had a harrowing interview of a woman who endured horrific abuse. Today, she debunks the Dallas’ authorities self-congratulation on having stopped the non-existent wave of prostitution that didn’t hit the Super Bowl. Honestly, I think the biggest reason government exists is so that people can pat themselves on the back.
  • Things I like about Barack Obama: he waited until after the Americans had fled Libya to denounce the regime.
  • I always knew I hated corn ethanol, I just didn’t know how much.
  • The amazing Radley Balko has another dispatch on why mandatory minimum sentences are a bad idea.
  • An Op-ed from one of the Koch brothers. My god, what extremists!