May 07, 2010

IAEA to eyeball Israel

I'll bet Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is shitting his pants at this news. It's the first time in its history the IAEA has had Israel on a meeting agenda. More than time.

That said, let's hope the IAEA doesn't get "tipped" by Arab pushing.

Jaguar scat-dropper facing federal charges

Janay Brun, the woman who allegedly planted the target-baiting jaguar scat that let Arizona Game and Fish reportedly illegally trap Macho B, reportedly will face federal charges over the incident.

Unfortunately, so far at least, she's the only one, it seems. I hope she gets the chance to "roll," and rolls hard.

You are kind of a Neanderthal

At least, unless you're of 100 percent sub-Saharan African heritage, that is. Investigation of the Neanderthal genome by a group led by Svante Paabo says the rest of us H. sapiens is 1-4 percent Neanderthal.

However, the claim is not without controversy on a number of grounds, namely on when the interbreeding would have happened, re the archaeological record.

Obama's true colors show with Kagan

Inside Washington's buzz is that President Barack Obama will name his solicitor general, Elena Kagan, to the Supreme Court vacancy left by John Paul Stevens' retirement announcement.

In a word, ugh.

She is NOT a liberal; in fact, just about everything the Obama/Emanuel White House has claimed about her is wrong, namely her alleged minority hiring record while at Harvard. And, what's not wrong is so tepid a defense of her to be worthless.

Babies, morals and ethics, ev psych, religion

The New York Times magazine has a good, but far short of great, article on these issues, previewed on the paper's main website.

The first six pages? Very good. But, on the last webpage, the story and author throws out sops to culture being needed to bring us to new moral heights.

Among those? The claim that human babies distinguishing between in-groups and out-groups as to who gets more of their moral attention proves that cultural-based morality is needed to make us love our brothers, and to define the whole world as brother and sister.

Now, Paul Bloom does not specify religion, or philosophy, as a primary cultural vehicle for this, but I think most people would put religion and philosophy as Nos. 1 and 2 on the list of cultural vehicles for moral development.

From religion, that would be the same morality that, in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, had Saul being told by Yahweh to commit genocide against the Amalekites, and even their livestock, right?

From philosophy, would that include some of the more heartless philosophies, such as Zen (if we're not counting it a religion)? Or would it include philosophies like Hegel's that have little thought for ethics?

Rather, religion, as a human creation, has expanded its definition of in-group along with the culture which transmits it doing the same. Ditto for philosophy as an organized movement.

It's quite arguable that something like freer trade, hastened by the invention of coinage, actually improved in-group vs. out-group perceptions more than religion or philosophy on the cultural side.

Indeed, Matt Ridley notes that seashell distribution argues that trade networks existed 80,000 years ago. That's far older than possibly religious-driven cave paintings at Lascaux or Altamira.

And, beyond all this, Bloom makes an unwarranted philosophical and religious assumption or two. Try this whopper:
The notion at the core of any mature morality is that of impartiality. ... The philosopher Peter Singer has pointed out that this notion of impartiality can be found in religious and philosophical systems of morality, from the golden rule in Christianity to the teachings of Confucius to the political philosopher John Rawls’s landmark theory of justice.
Says who? On what grounds? Walter Kaufmann kind of obliterated Rawls decades ago. (Read "Without Guilt and Justice.")

On religion, see what I posted above about Yahweh. See what fundamentalists in the various Western monotheisms today say about other religious traditions. No, impartiality is still restricted to in-groups in religion in many cases.

If Wall Street is a casino, it's incestuous

It's a casino that's rigged, with algorithmic trading on computer the Securities and Exchange Commission still doesn't understand, with the incestuousness of paying ratings agencies for their ratings of sheiss. And, more and worse, as Salon's Andrew Leonard makes clear.

The incestuous part? EU member states know this, too, especially the incestuousness between ratings agencies and the investment banks like Goldman Sucks who sold drossy schlock as alleged 24-K gold.

(So, Lloyd Blankfein, was Moody's helping you do "God's work"?)

Oh, a few Democrats (from the party that outpaced the GOP 2-1 in 2008 election cycle campaign receipts from Wall Street, per Open Secrets) have blathered about reforming this incestuous relationship, but the financial reform bill from Chris Dodd (D-Conn. Man) never did address this.

Compare the EU, which is implementing a new regulatory system for ratings agencies, which goes into effect near the end of this year.

In fact, the concern has been so bad in the Eurozone, politicians are saying, why don't we have a European-based ratings agency?
There have been repeated calls from European policymakers in recent years for a home-grown agency to compete in the U.S. dominated sector but with little progress. Users of ratings, such as investment banks, said policymakers are aiming at the wrong target.

"They should be focusing on getting stability back to the market and a European ratings agency is not going to do that," said Mark Austen, acting chief executive of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe.
The new EU rules being phased in from September will include requiring them to undergo direct supervision if they want to issue ratings in the 27-nation bloc, and two have at least two "independent" members of their boards of directors.

May 06, 2010

Dear Louisiana: Don't expect much from BP

Your friendly federal government capped disaster payouts at $75 mil after Exxon Valdez. Congressional attempts to change that cap and make it retroactive?

The retroactive part is unconstitutional as ex post facto legislation. Are our Congresscritters more pandering, or more that stupid?

An outright win for Conservatives in UK?

That's what Nate Silver is predicting at FiveThirtyEight.com. I hope he's wrong.

The best outcome, if the Tories are making a surge, would be to get close enough to the top to form a minority government, then implode.

The not-so-miracle living of plastic

The President's Cancer Council advises we Americans to be more careful we're not subtly poisoning ourselves. The concern includes, but by no means is limited to, Bishphenol A.

BP's cure may be worse than the problem

So says Joseph Romm, who notes that while BP's dispersents may help at the surface, they could well make things worse, even much worse, for shellfish and coral. Plus, we won't know that right away, and you can bet your bottom dollar BP ain't checking the seafloor.

Sidebar. Why are Dems not talking any more about conservation than are Republicans?

May 05, 2010

Oil: We have no methadone

The exact comment, on whether we will, or will not, get over our fossil fuels addiction in the wake of the BP well disaster?
"We are absolutely addicted and we have no methadone. All we have is the hard stuff," said Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. "The reality is we're on it, this incident has happened and what we have to do is figure out how we can move forward."
But, even as Big Oil's normally government-hating Competitive Enterprise Institute almost demands more government regulation to CYA for more offshore drilling, we as a people will learn little from this.

Gas guzzlers will continue to be cranked out. On the other fossil fuel, coal, houses will continue to be built cheaply, with little insulation, and way too big for what people actually need other than to allegedly keep up with some Joneses or else exclude others from their neighborhood.

PTSD may cause genetic changes

Repeat, may. The sample size is quite small. But methylization of genes to shut them off? Makes sense. That then said, does that cause short-term effects, or is it caused by them? Ditto on long-term.

So, even if genetic changes are caused, we still don't know where they fit.

Monsanto reaps profits from bad Roundup

Big Ag, which wants to offer us herbicide-resistant crops, or genetically-modified organisms without adequate testing, is ultimately interested in the big bottom line and little else.

No surprise that overuse of Roundup herbicide, a BIG Monsanto money-maker, in combo with its own Roundup-resistant soybeans (which, unlike the weeds, don't stay around to develop resistance) has badly backfired.
“What we’re talking about here is Darwinian evolution in fast-forward,” Mike Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, said.
The result? Low- and no-till farming are going by the wayside again. That means more soil erosion.

Farmers are reverting to other herbicides, which may in turn be even more toxic than Roundup.

If Monsanto really cared about the environment rather than profits, it would have taught farmers low-spray techniques to go along with low-till plowing.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is now genetically engineering crops to be resistant to Roundup AND other herbicides.

Until weeds become multiple-resistant, too? Anyone see where this is headed? Monsanto wants you, the farmer, to overspray so it can engineer a new crop.

The Tiger Woods cover-up

Local Florida state troopers WANTED a blood test off of Tiger the night his short drive sliced into a fire hydrant but a state government higher-up squelched it.

That's among items Steve Helling reports in "Tiger: The Real Story."

Hey, Assistant State Attorney Steve Foster, head of the State Attorney’s Office Intake Division? Yes, you, the subpoena squelcher. Did you get Tiger's autograph?

May 03, 2010

UN: No world climate deal until 2012?

Why would UN climate chief Yvo De Boer say this?

My guess he has a partial, but incomplete, eye on the US election calendar, among other things. He recognizes the US Senate won't pass a climate bill until midterm elections. But, will it pass one in its lame duck term? If so, just how weak will it be?

That said, I think he's right that little of substance will come out of the Cancun round, between a mix of the US electoral calendar and continued Chinese intransigence.

Tea Party - it IS racism, not conservativism

Reason's Cathy Young shows herself to be not an intelligent libertarian but a racist fellow traveler, ultimately, with her absurd claim that Tea Partiers, as a group, are so anti-black because they're conservative.

The University of Washington professor who did a sociological study of Tea Partiers which Young so badly misquotes, thoroughly refutes her.

May 02, 2010

Tiger — not trusted by all fellow golfers

A full one-quarter of fellow PGA golfers think Tiger Woods used performance enhancing drugs (most likely HGH) after his knee injury two years ago.

Arizona and NYT columnists

Tom Friedman, in "Narcos, No's and NAFTA" looks at what's happening south of the border, with the implication that soon enough, a rising Mexican middle class will alleviate immigration issues.

I think he's full of crap, because as Mexican oil production continues to decline, the Mexican government will have a lot less money to alleviate poverty, and I doubt the middle class will grow that fast or that much.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich sees the Arizona GOP's action on immigration as just the front lines of how Tea Partiers are radicalizing the GOP nationally on this issue. And, yes, it's fair to start saying the movement as a movement is racist, or quasi-racist, if it doesn't start reading racists out of the movement.

Tom Friedman misses the point

No, this Sunday's offering is not Tom Friedman's dumbest column yet. But "Narcos, No's and NAFTA" has plenty of blind spots.

For example, he notes that 40 percent of Mexicans are below that country's poverty line, which is well below our poverty line in the USofA, but adds that 75 percent of Mexicans consider themselves middle class.

He doesn't ask whether his beloved NAFTA has contributed to the problem at all.

He next notes how many Mexican parents are giving their children English names, but gives us no information behind this phenomenon, other than one Mexican economist:
What is also striking, (Mexican economist Luis de la Calle) added, are the names of the private schools in some of these poor Mexico City districts — like Iztapalapa: “They are called John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Carlos Marx, Van Gogh and Instituto Wisdom.” Why such names? They are appealing to the aspirations of Mexicans, about 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line but 75 percent of whom identify themselves as “middle class” in polls.

De la Calle also studied the top 50 Mexican baby names in 2008. The most popular for girls, he said, included “Elizabeth, Evelyn, Abigail, Karen, Marilyn and Jaqueline, and for boys Alexander, Jonathan, Kevin, Christian and Bryan.” Not only Juans. “We have two middle classes,” he said. “One comes from teachers’ unions and Pemex and power companies, who milk the Mexican government. These are the middle-class conservatives, and they want to preserve the status quo. But there is a rising and far larger Mexican middle class coming up from the bottom who send their kids to the Instituto Wisdom and who have a meritocratic view of the world.”
Are these "English namers" impoverished Mexicans of the percentage claiming to be middle class, and trying to prove their claim with the namings? Are they hoping that this will make it easier for their children to get to the US, and stay there, without being arrested?

Probably not, if they're all in private schools. Which Friedman doesn't even investigate further.

He then notes part of the actual middle class in Mexico is people working in the oil industry. He nowhere discusses Peak Oil, the sharp decline in Mexico's offshore Cantarell oilfield, or how this will possibly increase poverty, decrease the Mexican government's poverty aid in the future, given than more than 40 percent of its revenue comes from PEMEX, and how this could increase emigration to the USofA.

His "No's" group includes people who oppose privatizing PEMEX, but, again, he provides no context as to how this would affect the Mexican government, poverty, etc.

So, out of his blind spots, while this isn't Friedman's dumbest column, it's on the lower end of the scale. And, it repeats a lot of his usual stereotypical blather.