SocraticGadfly: 1/18/09 - 1/25/09

January 24, 2009

Lovelock – one last chance to save earth

The inventor of the Gaia hypothesis, James Lovelock, thinks we have but one last chance to save earth from our climate destructiveness.

In a wide-ranging interview with New Scientist, Lovelock, who calls himself an “optimistic pessimist,” calls carbon trading a business-driven scam, still supports nuclear power (but more as a boost for the developing world than addressing carbon emissions by the developed world), and says we could have mass extinctions.
I don't think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what's coming up. … For the first time in its 3.5 billion years of existence, the planet has an intelligent, communicating species that can consider the whole system and even do things about it. They are not yet bright enough, they have still to evolve quite a way …

But, he called himself an “optimistic pessimist,” so it would be unfair not to finish his last sentence.
but they could become a very positive contributor to planetary welfare.

I’m a pessimist trying to be an optimist, but not fully there yet, when I think about this issue. Read the full story for m ore of Lovelock’s thoughts.

A newspaper stimulus package worth adopting

Every 18-year-old gets a free subscription to the newspaper of his or her choice, with the government picking up the tab on delivery costs. (The various newspapers pay printing, still.)

Oh, I’m sorry, that’s already being done in France.

Along with a freeze in French newspaper postal costs, and the government buying more ads.

Iran about out of uranium?

If collapsing oil prices aren’t enough to slow down Iranian nuclear enrichment, whether it’s being done for peaceful or other purposes, a Oh, I’m sorry, that’s lack of uranium will surely do the trick.

Obama goes Calvinist at inaugural

Harry Browne picks up on what the MSM and MSLBs all missed – Obama’s solemn riff on the Protestant work ethic.

Here’s the Obama nut graf of Browne’s focus:
Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

What’s wrong with wanting some leisure, Browne asks in response?

But, Browne notes Obama gets worse with this:
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

Browne points to the penultimate clause, and wonders, did Obama really mean that slaves CHOSE the lash instead of leisure?

Look at Obama’s whole context, as quoted by Browne:
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

Obama certainly comes off as sounding like John Calvin meeting Simon Legree.

And, by the early time at which he wrapped up going to inaugural balls, Obama apparently doesn’t believe in leisure.

Great. A George W. Bush-type moralist who actually means it.

January 23, 2009

Pinker – Nature-nurture debate over, but on MY terms!

Updated, to reflect comments, Jan. 23: Contrary to claims in comments by Prof. Gregory, philosopher of science Robert Buller has MOST CERTAINLY not been refuted in his critique of what he has, in the past, called Evolutionary Psychology with capital letters, and what he now calls "Pop EP."


Rather, Buller is one of the feature authors in the January issue of Scientific American, the issue especially denoted to Darwin's birth bicentennial. And, Pinker gets one of Buller's biggest smackdowns.

Because of this, further comments on either this post, or on future posts of mine about Pop Evolutionary Psychology, to use Buller's new term, which claim he has been "refuted," will be deleted.

Note 2 to Gregory. As for TicS, I was drawing a blank on it when you mentioned it. I of course read Buller's original article; I skimmed the crique of him by Cosmides et al; skimmed his TiCS response to that (done with co-authors); then read his Skeptic article from later that same year, which was, in essence, his solo response to the NON-refutation of him earlier that year.

He still stands unrefuted, Gregory. (And others.) All his major critiques, about the Pleistocene focus on evolutionary environmental, the overdone focus on sexual issues, the over-focus on optimality (some psycological traits or artifacts could be, per Gould, nothing other than spandrels, stand unrefuted. Claims otherwise will be considered trolling from this point out.

Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has a long interview in the New York Times Magazine. An extended comment of his on page 2 jumped out at me:
The most prominent finding of behavioral genetics has been summarized by the psychologist Eric Turkheimer: “The nature-nurture debate is over. . . . All human behavioral traits are heritable.” By this he meant that a substantial fraction of the variation among individuals within a culture can be linked to variation in their genes. Whether you measure intelligence or personality, religiosity or political orientation, television watching or cigarette smoking, the outcome is the same. Identical twins (who share all their genes) are more similar than fraternal twins (who share half their genes that vary among people). Biological siblings (who share half those genes too) are more similar than adopted siblings (who share no more genes than do strangers). And identical twins separated at birth and raised in different adoptive homes (who share their genes but not their environments) are uncannily similar.

I have several problems with this.

First, knowing a bit about addictive behavior, I know that predisposition to cigarette smoking or alcoholic drinking does NOT have “substantial fraction” due to heritability.

Second, on behaviors like that, people like Pinker have never even made an effort to sort out familiar social influence.

Third, the “uncannily similar” comes off as being nothing more than a door-slamming phrase, i.e., “How can you be scientific if you question it”?

Well, with twins, I question it on several grounds.

First, identical twins themselves differ on when after fertilization the twinning event occurred:
• Do they have separate amniotic sacs and placentas?
• Share a sac but with different placentas?
• Share even placentas?

All of the above are of course environmental and not genetic effects, but Pinker conveniently ignores that.

Second, are identical twins “uncannily similar”? Not necessarily. Again, Pinker refers us to no research; he just throws out a statement to us and demands we accept it as gospel truth.

’Tis true, Pinker does qualify both his own comments, and those of Turkheimer, with some more general versions of what I just noted, on the next webpage. But, to me, the carts was enough before the horse, and emphasized enough more, to tell me where Pinker falls.

And, on page 5, Pinker shows we still have far to go in our understanding of the how and of the specific genes of genetic heritability.

Height is widely acknowledged, due to the information from statistical correlation, as being the single most heritable human trait. But, as Pinker notes, in 2007 a genomewide scan of nearly 16,000 people turned up a dozen height-related genes. However, these genes collectively accounted for just 2 percent of the height variation; plus, a person who had most of the genes was barely an inch taller, on average, than the general population.

And, I haven’t even gotten to Pinker’s biggest flop, or deliberate oversight.

It’s becoming ever more clear that what has to this point been called “junk DNA” isn’t; rather, some of it may code for frequency of expression of a gene, or control what genes interact together and when, etc. And, though still looked askance by some geneticists precisely for what it hints at, Stanley Prusiner’s work on prions, along with other research, shows that the heritability pathway may not be a one-way street at the cellular level.

Pinker starts to wrap up his take on the science of personal genomics with this:
At the same time, there is nothing like perusing your genetic data to drive home its limitations as a source of insight into yourself.

Too bad, he doesn’t realize, or refuses to accept, the limitations of genetic data today go far beyond that.

Obama ethics hypocrisy watch – Bill Lynn

Contrary to President Obama’s anti-lobbying executive orders yesterday, it’s apparently perfectly OK to have recently lobbied for a defense contractor (Raytheon) and now become Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Welcome to Washington, FOB Bill Lynn.

Is it time to start an ethics meter?

The “drip, drip, drip”?

Obama luckily dodged a bullet on Bill Richardson.

But, he’s willfully playing with dynamite on serial liar Tim Geithner.

He has an Interior Secretary who once threatened to sue U.S. Fish and Wildlife if it gave Endangered Species Act listing to the black-tailed prairie dog.

And now, he waives his own, one-day-old ethics rules, and all for the military-industrial complex to boot.

AND… shades of Bush! … the waiver was released at 4:46 p.m. Friday, Eastern time.

Just like Bush doing a Friday evening news dump.

Hey, Obamiacs, are any of you tired of getting hit over the head with reality yet?

And, MSLBs, are you going to start finding more of a voice?

Will somebody define ‘liberal’ for Forbes?

The magazine’s list of its estimated 25 most influential liberals includes:

· James Fallows (a neo-centrist)
· Thomas Friedman (ditto);
· Fareed Zakaria (ditto);
· Fred Hiatt (“liberal hawk” is too generous);
· Glenn Greenwald (libertarian, at bottom line);
· Andrew Sullivan (libertarian conservative);
· Maureen Dowd (apolitical self-fluffer);
· Chris Matthews (ditto).

That’s a full one-third Forbes got completely wrong.

Climate change killing Western trees

In the western United States, especially the Southwest, where the area is in the grip of what seems to be the longest drought since the last days of Mesa Verde, global warming has brought dryer conditions – what seems to be climatic, not just weather – with it. And the combo, both directly and indirectly, is killing Western trees.

Trees are more susceptible, now, to pest like the various bark beetles, as well as drought itself, and certainly to foreste fires. Plus, they’re able to absorb less carbon dioxide.

Human brain not built for theistic evolution

Boy, this Live Science post just jumped out at me.

Using an fMRI to measure brain responses, and using either “gOd” or “science” as a priming word for subjects who first read information about the Big Bang, at the cosmology level, or “primal soup” at the Earth level, psychologist Jesse Preston of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her colleague Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago found statistical signs that people who know the basics of both cannot hold on to both the naturalistic focus of science and the transcendent metaphysic of theism at the same time:
“We can only believe in one explanation at a time,” Preston told LiveScience. “So although people can report explicitly, ‘Look, I’ve been a Christian all my life, and yes, I also believe in science and I am a practicing chemist,’ the question is, are these people really reconciling belief in God and science, or are they just believing in one thing at a time?”

But, the researcher’s thesis is being questioned.

In shades of Steven Jay Gould, Hampshire College science historian Salman Hameed says the conclusions depend on the “conflict” view of science and religion, vs. Gould’s non-oppositional magisteria or similar.

But, what Hameed overlooks is that among PhD scientists, especially top-tier post-doc PhDs, Gould’s two-domains theory is ignored even more than it is dismissed. Ditto among modern philosophers of science and non-science philosophers who aren’t explicit theists.

Don’t give Obama a gold star for human rights just yet

Why not? Because there’s a truck-sized loophole or two in his executive order shutting down Guantanamo and mandating the use of the Army Field Manual for interrogations, including CIA ones.

Here’s your loopholes:
Obama’s order closing Guantánamo assigns the attorney general to lead a review of what should happen to the remaining detainees and does not rule out the possibility of trying some of them using military commissions. …

One task force, with the attorney general and secretary of defense as co-chairmen, will study detainee policy and report to the president in six months. A second task force, led by the attorney general, and with the secretary of defense and director of national intelligence as vice co-chairs, will study whether the Army Field Manual should remain the only standard for interrogators and review the practice of extraordinary rendition.

In short, six months from now, Obama could:
• Let the CIA go back to “enhanced interrogation techniques”;
• Decide to continue rendering alleged terrorists to Jordan, Egypt, etc.;
• Establish a new set of military commissions, with either a lot, or a little, changed from the 2006 Military Commissions Act baseline, and therefore still not afford Geneva protections, or fully adversarial legal defense rights, to so-called Global War on Terror detainees.

It's no wonder that folks like Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, are worried.

And, a bonus question: Just what did Obama CIA nominee Leon Panetta know about extraordinary rendition (and is there such a thing as “ordinary” rendition?) from his days as Clinton chief of staff ?

January 22, 2009

TPM tries Grassley head fake to avoid discussing Geithner

Trying to compare a relatively minor donor misfiling by the political action committee of Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, is almost as laughable as Geithner’s own laughable lies, but not surprising.

Here’s why it’s laughable:
1. Apples and oranges, comparing this with Geithner.
2. The fact that TPM's new reporter, or the webmaster or whomever, said "go look for it yourself" rather than posting the actual PDF, indicates its small taters what Grassley's PAC did.
3. It was Grassley's PAC; we don't know if he knew anything about it.
4. It was, apparently, a one-off deal, not four years of malfeasance.

I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you that this is somehow supposed to make Geithner look better, or not so bad. I'm sure this will be a MSLB talking point.

If Obama REALLY wanted change at the Treasury, he would have excluded anybody with any of the following taints:
1. Worked for Goldman Sachs.
2. Works for Citigroup.
3. Worked for Larry Summers.
4. Worked for Robert Rubin.
5. Worked for the NY Fed.
6. Worked for The Fed.
7. Taught econ at either Chicago or Stanford.

Those would be good starting points.

But, Obama instead:
1. Had Goldman Sachs as his No. 1 contributor;
2. Had Bob Rubin as an advisor;
3. Hired Larry Summers for the "gray eminence" no-confirmation job he probably wanted all along;
4. Nominated a man as Treasury Secretary who had some degree of violation of the first five points above.

It looks like Just.Another.Politician.™ is quickly settling into the Oval Office.

But, back to the TPM "story."

Why isn't TPM reporter Elena Schor actually looking at Geithner's TurboTax claim rather than throwing crap against the wall? Who does assignment editing for her, or is she supposed to be a "self-starter"? In other words, was the Grassley story her own idea, or is she "carrying water" for somebody?

Science is alive in Texas!

It may not quite be WELL, yet, but it’s breathing better, now that the State Board of Education has dropped a requirement that the “weaknesses” (right) of evolution be taught. It was actually an amendment to restore this, and it died on a 7-7 tie, with one Democratic member not present.
“We’re not talking about faith. We’re not talking about religion”said board member Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, who opposed the amendment. “We’re talking about science. We need to stay with our experts and respect what they have requested us to do.”

Meanwhile, at least one GOP board member apparently got her talking points straight from the Discovery Institute

Barbara Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said there have been “significant challenges” to evolution, claiming a European scientist had challenged Darwin’s “tree of life.”

BUT… she couldn’t even name a name. Sounds like just throwing something to the wall and hoping it sticks.

It’s pretty clear Cargill was talking about Graham Lawton, writing in New Scientist, whose hype is refuted, and whose already-accepted reality, is explained here.

And, yes, she is clueless that a Net of Life, rather than a tree, has been common as an explanatory device for years if not decades.

Other GOP members of the SBOE claimed “academic freedom” was the cause.

BUT … academics involves teaching facts; there’s no “academic freedom” of creationism or intelligent design.

Ken Mercer called “fraud” against evolution by citing Piltdown Man. Buddy, if you don’t live in a glass house …

Pat Hardy and Geraldine Miller were the two GOP board members with brains.

Read the full story for more details.

But, per Pharyngula, several battles were lost.

Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer?

Sure, he was a prick on the diamond and even more in the clubhouse, but it amazes me people would even ask that question. Not only is Kent a HOFer, I would call him borderline first-ballot HOFer.

Or, to put it in terms of recent 2B -- he deserves to be voted in more quickly than Ryne Sandberg. (Sorry, Cubs fans.)

As far as pure second basemen, only Rod Carew, probably Joe Morgan and Craig Biggio and possibly Robbie Alomar stand ahead of him in the last 50 years, since Jackie Robinson retired.

Don't believe me?

OK, first, a look at all the 2B already in the HOF.

Looking at the live-ball era, Kent is better than Frankie Frisch, Nellie Fox, Red Schoendienst, Tony Lazzeri and non-deserving new Veterans Committee choice Joe Gordon. Certainly better than Billy Herman, Bill Mazeroski, Rabbit Maranville and others on the list.

Still don't believe me?

OK, here's your top numbers on Kent:
.500 career slugging - the best ever for a Hall-level 2B except for Hornsby;
21st all time in doubles, 560;
34th all time in extra base hits, 984;
47th all time in RBIs, 1,560.
98th all time in slugging percentage;
123 OPS-plus (above 120 is, IMO, for a hitter from any fielding position, guaranteed Hall entree).
Fielding? No, never won a Gold Glove, but had average percentage and above-average to well-above-average range.

Don't let the personality deceive you; Kent is a Hall of Famer.

Kent’s surprisingly sentimental retirement announcement is reviewed here.

Caroline Kennedy allegedly had Geithner problems

A person connected to New York Gov. David Patterson says the real reason Caroline Kennedy withdrew herself from wanting to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat is that she, like Tim Geithner, has a taxes and housekeeper skeleton or two in the closet.

And, in a slap to the Kennedy face, and Kennedy brand, too, Paterson apparently wasn’t going to appoint her, even without the skeletons, because he didn’t consider her ready for the position, although Kennedy’s corner is saying she was always the front-runner.

A comeuppance for the Kennedy dynasty, in any case. Now, we just need the Bushes to get slapped around a little more.

And, here’s the latest on the serial-lying Tim Geithner.

Profiled: The wolves Sarah Palin wants killed

And the hunters who enjoy the ‘in-your-enviro-face’ aspects of it

That includes the Denali wolfpack, profiled by Backpacker magazine. They follow Denali National Park caribou herds outside the park boundaries, as any wolves would do. But, once they cross a narrow no-hunting buffer zone, they’ll legally shootable.

More than that – Palin’s Alaska government pays bounties to have them shot.

And, despite the claims of people like Alaska Game Commissioner Cliff Judkins, the state’s wolf population is not being scientifically managed.

And, hunters like Coke Wallace have an arrogance about them that’s about as appealing as Trig Palin’s placenta.

Throw in the fact that many Alaskan wolf “hunters” really are just wolf snarers – and ones illegally setting snares at that – and you see how disgusting this is.

Read the full, in-depth story for more.

Muammar Qaddafi as Middle East sage?

Well, the New York Times thinks enough of the idea to give him column space, where he, interestingly, advocates a “one-state solution” for Israel/Palestine.

Won’t fly.

Palestinians will reject it based on recent West Bank history. Israel will reject it based on future demographics fears. Still, it’s a decent column. Give it a read.

Brother: Big Mac used roids – I hooked him up

Marc McGwire’s admittedly estranged brother, Jay, says Big Mac used both steroids and HGH, and that Jay introduced him to performance-enhancing drugs in 1994.

That last clause contradicts Jose Canseco, who says HE turned Mac on, way back in 1988. That said, assuming there’s not some third claimant out there, Jay’s time frame sounds more plausible.

France headed to ‘apartheid’?

That’s the word from Yazid Sabeg, named in December to the newly created post of diversity and equality commissioner by President Nicolas Sarkozy. The sone of Algerian immgrants says that France, which long has claimed to be “ethnic-blind,” needs to offer hope to youth and young adults ASAP, or else apartheid of a sort will be the result.

‘Who killed Flipper?’

If you’re as much an environmentalist as me, this new Sundance-screened documentary sounds like “must-see viewing,” including a disgusting Japanese practice that makes their whaling look tame.

No more ‘wars of choice’

Michael Lind is exactly right that this needs to be part of a new Democratic “contract with America.” Unfortunately, he’s also right about this:
Unfortunately, the Democratic Party's foreign policy mandarins are ill-prepared for peace. Many centrist Democrats have spent so much time in the last few decades trying to prove that Democrats can be as hawkish as Republicans that they have become hard to distinguish from bellicose neoconservatives.

Beyond that, Lind says both Clinton and Bush II treated Russia and China as though those two countries still had one foot stuck in the Cold War deep freeze (while alternatively pandering to them and trying to outflank them on energy issues at the same time).

In short, a new American internationalism can be practiced without being a zero-sum game of one-upmanship, Lind says.

Geithner serial-lies to Senate – MSLBs ignore it; will Obama?

What else are you going to say about Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner’s laughable claim that TurboTax software errors caused him to miss paying more than $30,000 in FICA taxes he should have?

First, TurboTax is a simple program, and very much GIGO driven. If Geithner input garbage, whose fault is that?

And, the lie is so transparent, to boot. For ’winger blogs, this baby was far easier to check than claims that Bush National Guard documents aired by Dan Rather were possibly typed on a computer rather than a typewriter or early word processor. And, they’ve blown it out of the water.

That ignores the two years Geithner had a preparer due his taxes. The only way Geithner got those years wrong was if he lied to the preparer, despite the IMF telling him he was considered self-employed for tax purposes.

Beyond that level of bald-faced transparency in a lie, to me, there’s often a grain or two of arrogance. It’s as if Geithner is nonverbally telling Congress, “Yeah, I lied. But, I’m the indispensable man, so, what are you going to do about it?”

Part two of the problem is the mainstream liberal blogs, the TPMs, WMs, Koses, etc. of the MSLB firmament, after eight years of bitching about mainstream media’s failure to do its job with oversight of Bush, are so far ignoring this issue.

The country’s top financial man, including being the ultimate boss of the IRS, skipped paying part of his taxes for years. That’s bad enough. Now, he’s lying about why he did it.

Let’s let San Francisco Chronicle columnist Kathleen Pender have a few words on the importance of this all:
I believe that hiring a man who failed to do his taxes right will set a terrible example. Our tax system is built on the premise of pay when due, not pay when caught.

As for people who say we can’t afford to do without a Treasury Secretary right now, I counter:
1. Obama knew all this a month ago or more; he could have nominated somebody else;
2. If you accept that argument, you’re accepting Geithner’s “indispensible man” arrogance;
3. We can’t afford to do WITH Tim Geithner running the Treasury;
4. Obama’s “common man” popularity runs SERIOUS risk of early trouble, re the stimulus plan, more TARP bailout, etc., if a “one set of laws for me, another for you” guy is running the show.
5. Obama’s appearance of fallibility grows the longer he stays with Geithner.
That said, as I noted, nobody forced Obama to stay with Geithner after Obama’s vetting team first became aware of the problem.

Instead, unless he changes his mind, President Obama is determined to inflict a serial liar upon the United States as chief point man for as much as $1 trillion of economic stimulus work.

Do you trust Tim Geithner? (Unfortunately, the Washington Post, going by the headline of its Web story at the first link, apparently still does.)

January 21, 2009

John Cornyn, whack job

First, Texas’ VERY junior senator won’t let Hillary Clinton have a voice vote confirmation as Secretary of State.

But, that’s just a warm-up.

Now, he’s holding up the Attorney General confirmation of Eric Holder because … he might, just might, prosecute waterboarders, though that’s highly unlikely.

Funny way of trying to rebuild Texas political influence.

Batman to replace Big Bill?

Val Kilmer is mulling a run for New Mexico governor in 2010. Would he run as a Democrat? Term-limited incumbent Bill Richardson has publicly supported the idea, but Kilmer donated campaign dinero to Ralph Nader, not Barack Obama. Dunno if state Dem insiders would be as enthusiastic as Big Bill, in light of that.

That's BUSH - BushCo shuts down WH comments phone line

Far worse than stealing the "W" off computer keys eight years ago, if that had even happened (and it didn't), I'm getting reports from multiple activist groups, such as Clean and The Hastings Group, that the White House's telephone comment line was deliberately shut down by Bush staff and that Obama staff were not told how to reconnect it. Could be a day or two, is what I hear, before it's restored.

That's BUSH.

SEC wants to know more about Steve Jobs’ health

More specifically, as rumors swirl that the Face of Apple needs a liver transplant, the Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly looking at how forthcoming, or not, Apple execs have been about Jobs’ health.

Given the degree to which Jobs is associated with Apple, and how much he has made himself associated with Apple, it’s probably worthy of further investigation.

Gov. Perry OK with Texas city taxes for rail

Although still generally moronic about TxDOT

Well, this is good news for the future. Perry said that, while he generally opposes tax increases, he doesn’t have a problem giving local communities more choices to set more taxes for themselves if they want.

He also said he wants to boost transportation spending in the state by $750 million, primarily through stopping gas-tax diversion.

And, he expects the Sunset Commission’s recommendation for TxDOT overhaul to fall flat on its face in the Lege. He even laughed at the idea, the Morning News said.

Well, Rick, the Lege has wiped smirks off your face before; I wouldn’t get so cocky.

He then said a board of overseers was part of the problem:
"Where do you stop? Why not appoint a panel to oversee education and anything else. If you want a full-time Legislature, then this is a good first step. But Texans, and most lawmakers, aren't going to want that," he said.

Actually, this Texan, and probably a few others, DO want, if not a full-time Lege, a part-time one that meets for regular sessions every year, instead of every other.

Yes, 1982 was worse!

Far worse, in fact, than 2008.

Small comfort, that, but respected economist David Leonhardt shows why I was right when I pointed out – primarily to the under-35 crowd, two weeks ago, that wailing over 2008 job losses was overblown and lacking historical context.

Anyway, here’s Leonhardt’s nutgraf, courtesy of information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
It’s not even that close to being as bad. The ranks of unemployed and underemployed, controlling for the size of the population, were much larger in 1982 than today.

He then tackles the issue of those wet-behind-the-ears bloggers and would-be online pundits who have no historical context:
The recession of the early 1980s doesn’t have a catchy name, and almost half of Americans are too young to have any real memory of it. But it was terrible — qualitatively different from the mild recessions of 1990-91 and 2001.

As someone who’s over 40, not just 35, and was wrapping up high school at this time, I can tell you it was serious indeed. Leonhardt says on the employment side, the total of unemployed/underemployed/discouraged, while high right now, is still 3 full percentage points or more below the worst spot in 1982.

If that’s not clear enough, the graph at left is crystal clear. In terms of employment, at least, we’re nowhere near 1982 right now.

Now, could things get not just a little worse, but a lot worse? Yes; Leonhardt says that, too. But, his bottom line is, 30-somethings, and especially 20-somethings, should shut up and stop acting like Chicken Littles.

Read his full column.

It’s stuff like this that makes me feel “older,” to the point of feeling a semi-curmudgeonly “older” about today’s “kids” and their lack of suffering or whatever.

Some questions for Tim Geithner

Beyond the back taxes issue, the NYT gives several leading economists the shot at asking Geithner, in essence, just where the hell do we go from here on TARP and larger economic stimulus issues?

In essence, the news analysis piece is a strong request to Geithner to get a plan together for Bank Bailout 2.0 if he doesn’t already have one.

George Mitchell as Middle East envoy?

What will he do there, if Obama taps him on the shoulder? Check Moqtada al-Sadr for steroids? Try to arrange a national title playoff between Hezbullah and Hamas?

More seriously, as has been shown by BushCo attempts to propagandize the Arab world, Mitchell’s Lebanese heritage, via his mother, won’t be worth any bonus points.

January 20, 2009

Arabs can’t agree on Gaza

So much so, in fact, that a two-day Arab summit has collapsed, in part over how hard a line to take with Israel over Gaza.

That said, the 2002 Saudi peace initiative remains on the table, despite a push by Syria, among others, to get it withdrawn.

Morning News remains clueless about hybrid-drive buses

A DMN editorial Jan. 19 suggests Dallas Area Rapid Transit should choose natural gas buses over diesel ones.

As I e-mailed Editorial Page Editor Keven Ann Willey, it appears the writer of the original stories on the false dilemma of diesels vs. NG buses didn't even pass on to opinion staff what I told him -- that a thing called hybrid buses exist. (Even dirtier secret -- GM subsidiary Allison has been making them for years.)

Also, in case neither you nor Boone Pickens was aware, U.S. natural gas production peaked earlier this decade. His "solution," if you're trying to put it in terms of energy security, isn't one.

You can’t get nuttier than Joseph Farah on Obama

Or much scarier, intellectually.

Praying, in essence, for God damn Barack Obama Beyond being socially offensive, I won’t even bother listing the ways he mangles Biblical interpretation.

My Inaugural Address take – B/B-minus, I think?

Sad that Obama, in talking about “storm clouds, first talks about the so-called “War on Terror.” Tenor of later comments on this line sound way too Bushie for me.

Don’t care for half-blind paean to “the market.”

Says it’s a “false choice” to be forced to choose between safety and ideals. Sounds good, but, that FISA vote last summer.

Good on stressing importance of science.

Bit defensive in his “critics say…” comment.

Cadence, delivery, etc.? Straight B or a bit below. Sounded rushed and nervous in first half of speech. Sounded too Tele PrompTered throughout.

That said, did I tear up a bit at the swearing in? Yes. As well as laughed at Chief Justice Roberts mangling the oath administration.

And, I’ll pass on poet Elizabeth Alexander. A crappy poem by someone who has no sense of cadence and meter for reading poems out loud.

Full address here.

Obama Administration sell-out watch No. 22 – The New Republic

Rahm Emanuel says The New Republic will be required reading inside the White House. Does that include for Barack Obama, Joe Biden andHillary Clinton framing policy toward Israel?

Hitchens – American majority was torture supporters

And, you know, I don’t think you can prove his claim is wrong.

Why Bush isn’t pardoning anybody else

As part of commuting the sentences of trigger-happy Border Patrol agents Jose A. Compean and Ignacio Ramos, President Bush said that was it from his pardon and clemency drawer.

Upon which, we get a variety of MSLB speculation. At Washington Monthly, Hilzoy links to Atrios, who says it’s because people pardoned could be compelled to testify against him. Possible, but only a lesser matter; and lack of a pardon does not block civil actions from going forward, whether against Bush himself or an unpardoned minion.

Hilzoy herself who says it would be a tacit recognition these people need pardons. Again, possible, but on the esoteric side for Bush.

So, let’s stop reaching for esoteric explanations.

With the possible reasoning he’s not pardoning Scooter as some sort of payback to Uncle Fester, the answer is otherwise simple.

George W. Bush is a USER. Always has been. He’s just not using alcohol and cocaine now.

Every President, ’tis true, uses people in some way or another. Nobody's done it as blatantly or crudely as Shrub has, though.

Or, if you don't like esoteric, maybe something more conspiratorial will fit your bill, if my explanation doesn't. At Hilzoy’s post linked above, in comments, MG says:
My guess is, if Bush and Obama don’t have a deal in place already, he’s taking a calculated risk on Obama’s aversion to conflict I will also guess that it’s one of the few calculated risks Bush has taken in his entire life that will pan out.

I don’t know if that theory is true, either.

But, BUT, I think MG is spot-on with the “Obama’s aversion to conflict” observation. Sounds like a Democratic president from Arkansas, raised part of his life in a one-parent household?

Not every TPM reader drinks Obama Kool-Aid

At Talking Points Memo, Publisher Josh Marshall asked readers, late last week, to submit their reflections on the inauguration. He’s fair enough to run a few that don’t agree with him, such as Reader LS, who feels “apprehension and fear” about the country in general and thinks the Obamas “ seem to live in a very different world.”

Or reader LS, who says that he, like me, is “tired of the hero-worship mentality.”

January 19, 2009

A full set of Palin NOT looking pregnant pics

Go to page 13 of the April 2008 issue of Outdoor Alaska (PDF). Just 41 days before allegedly having a baby, she doesn’t look very preggers to me

Afghanistan, meet Russia

The office of Afghan Presidetn Hamid Karzai said that country had reached a defense agreement with Russia. I’m sure the U.S. and other Western powers are just loving this one.

Didn’t we support the mujahedeen against this 25 years ago

Two faces of Rick Warren, weak research of Obama

I think most readers of this and similar blogs need little introduction to the idea of a two-faced Rick Warren pretending to be America’s pastor while “playing” to the Religious Right all the time.

The story suggests the Obama team was neive about Warren’s agenda and program, and may not even have been aware of his more outrageous statements, such as comparing homosexuality to incest.

Lemme see … Richardson’s Cabinet nomination, Geithner’s Cabinet nomination,now this.

How often have we seen the allegedly well-organized Obama machine show itself to be anything but? Can we file that idea under political urban legends now?

Top politicians who most regret hooking up with Bush

The domestic division begins with Norm Coleman, then runs through northeastern/New England GOPers and on to John McCain.

The foreign division starts, of course, with Bush’s poodle, Tony Blair, goes on to Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar, and numerous other figures.

January 18, 2009

MSLBs get in a tizzy about Hugo Chavez

Washington Monthly was the first blog I saw to rip Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a new one ocver his comments about Barack Obama.

But, Steve Benen misses picking up on a few things.

First, and the preliminary point, many bloggers don't talk about a "bipartisan foreign policy establishment" just for their health. And neither did Chavez.

Second, while the assassination of Obama rhetoric is high, Chavez certainly might continue to fear that himself.

Third, let's not forget that his relations with the U.S. started going downhill during the Clinton Administration. I'm not saying whose fault that is, just making an observation.

EC tries to slap down Microsoft again

Once again, the European Commission says Microslob is engaged in anti-competitive practices by bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system.

Can the EC fine Microslob oh, about $10 billion, both as a slapdown to it and a shot across the bow to Google for the future?

Beinart – ‘Surge worked’ he said snottily

Beinart is at least honest enough to admit that not all the decrease in casualties in Iraq in 2008 was due to the Bush/Petraeus surge, but he still gives it a fair amount of fluffing.

Then, as per the headline, he says liberal activists under the age of 30 are as bad as Bushies, which is just bullshit.

First, let’s analyze the other factors Beinart charitably lists along with the surge:
• Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army stands down. True for now, but, will that remain the case when those surge troops go to Afghanistan? Not too likely.
• The Anbar Awakening started before the surge.

And, Beinart admits we don’t know that the lower level of violence will last. Given that Petraeus, if not Nim Chimpsky at 1600 Pennsylvania, knew the surge was not a permanent answer, it’s premature for Beinart to claim it “worked.”

Especially when Michael O’Hanlon is your main empirical source.

Was Sarah Palin trying to abort Trig just before birth?

If Sarah is indeed Trig’s and gave birth last April as she claims, a commenter at Celtic Diva has a VERY interesting insight. (The comment is in response to a guest post by nurse Lee Thompkins, who likens birth doubters to conspiracy theorists.

Sweet Lucy 47 says:
Palin had become a Pro-abortion Pro-Lifer.

She really didn't want this baby, she had the amnio, found out then the baby was "damaged" and really realized she didn't want it...then denied she was even pregnant for months, until she could deny it no longer, so had to own up to it. Then, in Texas realizing she had a serious problem, made a fateful decision to travel as she did, in the hopes that God would take over and she wouldn't have the baby. Cynical?? Yes, maybe I am...but it all fits in with your explanation, and it all fits in with what happened and it explains the reasoning behind her actions.

Fits to me. It does accept Palin at her word (which ain't worth much) about the legal facts of the birth — and nothing else.

Sarah Palin is ultimately about Sarah Palin, religious beliefs and all. Whether this was a fully conscious mindset or not, it sounds reasonable — and quite perturbing.

UPDATE: And, in "The Rogue," Joe McGinniss offers up a new "crazy like a wingnut" angle: Palin adopted Trig, knowing she was a Down's syndrome baby, so Sarah could be a poster child for the pro-life movement. She had to fly from Dallas back to Mat-Su Regional Hospital in such a hurry because the adoption finalized earlier than she expected. Hey, it's as believable as what Sarah claims.