SocraticGadfly: 7/11/10 - 7/18/10

July 17, 2010

More on Rahmbo the sellout

In talking about some of his Congressional disappointments, David Obey takes Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel out for a well-deserved spanking.

But, Krugman goes him one better, noting that "the Cossacks work for the czar."

Well put, well put!

A fuller version of the story, with additional takes on some of Obey's disappointments with Team Obama, is here.

Gawker sells out

OK, so Jason Chen gets his computer back. And, in exchange for a warrant against him officially being dropped, San Mateo County gets to keep copies of everything on his computer. How is a compromise sellout like this good for journalistic integrity in any way?

July 16, 2010

Obamacare = neoliberal shit

Turn to Greenwald for full details. The nickel version:

A former BushCo staffer becomes a top flack for big bad insurer Wellpoint. She then becomes chief of staff to "Democratic" Senator Mod Max Baucus. She's now going to oversee Obamacare implementation issues. Folks, this is more neoliberal shit. Don't defend him so much.

Hot enough for you, Faux News?

This year has had the warmest average temperature for the January-June period on record - 57.5 F (12.2 C).

That's globally, Faux Boys.

July 15, 2010

Apple rushed iPhone 4 to market, Jobs lied

It appears Steve Jobs and Apple knew about the iPhone 4 antenna problems all along, and rushed it through in-house testing.

Let's just overbash behavioral economics

Neoclassical economists, especially theoreticians rather than empiricists, have very little room to stand to criticize alleged excesses and wrongs of behavioral economics.

At least behavioral economics is experimental, investigative and non-Platonic. Neoclassical economics is all but three of those things.

That said, the two column authors do have a nugget or to, such as this:
Behavioral economics should complement, not substitute for, more substantive economic interventions.
I partially agree. Until traditional economics can be more empirical, more verifiable and less Theory-of-Everything driven, at the least, behavioral-driven economic thinking needs to come more and more to the fore.

Surprisingly, Peter Ubel, a coauthor of the column, has a book titled, “Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds With Economics.” And, George Loewenstein has done solid work in behavioral econoics, per his Wiki page.

The column was wrongly written. Not all behavioral economists make the claims that Cass Sunstein does. (He is ultimately the clear target of the column.) So, why not say so?

It decreases the pair's claim to intellectual rigor to paint with what are clearly broad, and unnecessarily broad, brush strokes.

July 14, 2010

The arrogance of technology worship

AP science writer Seth Borenstein, author of this great column, doesn't use the phrase "salvific technologism," like I do on this blog, but, looking at BP and Deepwater Horizon in particular, and Big Oil, Big Tech Buffs and offshore drilling in general, he gets to the same point. And hammers it home.

Friedman gets Russia wrong

In his joking column (or is that joke of a column, the norm, it seems) about the denouement of the Russian spy ring, Tom Friedman talks about the allegedly tanking Russian economy:
Were it not for oil, gas and mineral exports, Russia’s economy would be contracting even more than it has. Moscow’s most popular exports today are probably what they were under Khrushchev: vodka, Matryoshka dolls and Kalashnikov rifles.


All little Tommy had to do was crack the CIA Factbook online:
(I)n 2009 Russia was the world's largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest exporter of oil, and the third largest exporter of steel and primary aluminum. ... A revival of Russian agriculture in recent years has led to Russia shifting from being a net grain importer to a net grain exporter. The economy had averaged 7% growth since the 1998 Russian financial crisis, resulting in a doubling of real disposable incomes and the emergence of a middle class.

True, it's not a bed of roses. But, finished steel and primary aluminum aren't "mineral exports." Besides, many of those mineral exports are almost as valuable as oil. Maybe more so, in some cases.

And, as for the snark about Russian government mismanagement, per Wiki:
The federal budget has run surpluses since 2001 and ended 2007 with a surplus of 6% of GDP.

Six percent of GDP? We'd be installing a president for life who produced a $600 billion surplus, or something like that.

On the agriculture side, to follow up on the CIA report, Wiki notes that only the EU and the US are bigger agricultural exporters. Yes, Russia is ahead of Brazil, Argentina and Australia, among others.

Finally, Russia is supposedly third, behind only China and India, in computer software outsourcing.
The IT market is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Russian economy. Russian software exports have risen from just $120 million in 2000 to $1.5 billion in 2006. Since the year 2000 the IT market has demonstrated growth rates of 30-40 percent a year, growing by 54% in 2006 alone.

So, once again, STFU, Friedman.

Polishing Bush's BP apple

At first, I read this NYT column noting that Congress had a share of blame for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and definitely agreed. Then, I got to the part where "the environmentalists" were blamed, and though I agree that Gang Green groups have made some pig-in-a-poke tradeoffs with Big Oil, I knew the author was stretching things.

Then, I noticed George W. Bush got nothing but kudos for trying to stop Congress, the GOP in Congress no less, from buttering up Big Oil. I also noticed that the Obama Administration also did NOT get blamed.

Then, I looked at the endline of the column and realized it was Executive Branch common oourtesy.

TCEQ idiocy, Big Bend version

In its protesting EPA taking over the environmental permitting process here in Texas, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shows exactly why EPA needs to take over.

At an appearance in Odessa, TCEQ Executive Director Mark Vickery is even ready to pooh-pooh National Park air pollution:
He also took some shots at a common foe of the TCEQ and many in the oil and gas business — the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The federal and state agencies have been at odds since the EPA took over the operating permit of a Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi in May.

“In some areas we need to have some robust arguments and, frankly, a lawsuit, and we’re pursuing some of them,” Vickery said.

While he said Texas is already seeing results of air quality initiatives, Vickery said new federal proposals would be unreasonable.

“If this hits the low range (of proposed emissions standards limits), Big Bend National Park is out of the range for ozone,” he said.

Uhh, excuse me? It IS out of the range for other air pollutants already. Have you actually looked at its air?

In fact, your own agency, under its old name, admitted that:
Pollution has created a haze that impairs visibility on most days, and 6% of the time visibility is less than 30 miles. According to TNRCC, "the decrease in visibility at Big Bend National Park is among the most pronounced of any national park in the western United States." Meanwhile, the National Park Service (NPS) considers Big Bend to have the "dirtiest air" among all western parks.

And don't just blame Mexico:
The study showed that urban and industrial areas of Houston and Galveston on the Texas Gulf coast are a large source of air contaminants, as is a similar region in North Central Mexico.

Houston? Galveston? That would be the oil refineries you refuse to adequately regulate. Or, the coal-fired power plants and their sulfur compounds

No, ozone isn't the primary problem in Big Bend. But it is part of the problem.

July 13, 2010

If Douthat is talking "soak the rich" ...

Then we've got something serious going. Well, he doesn't go quite that far, but, eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction (which largely favors upper middle class and above)? Means-testing Social Security? He's onto something.

Meanwhile, the rich themselves are trying to pass even more of their often undertaxed income to their heirs without any taxes at all.

July 12, 2010

Who kidnapped Andrew Napolitano's brain?

Faux News' legal expert says Bush and Cheney should be indicted for torture.

What if BP had been a nationalized oil company?

The Big Money has some scary thoughts on just how bad a deepwater oil drilling disaster really could be.

The worst case would be if CNOOC or another Chinese national caused such a spill, because of the deficit and foreign trade issues that would be "overhead."

Jesse Jackson: Oxygen-hogging jackass

Thinking that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert considers LeBron James "a runaway slave" is a new low in both stupidity and limelight-seeking.

OK, who does Jesse shake down for money, next? The Cavs? Gilbert personanlly? The NBA? LeBron? All of the above?

Updated: The answer? Gilbert, via the punitive ministrations of David Stern, which I guess means the answer really is Gilbert/NBA. (That's not to say Jesse still won't hit up Lebron for some sort of "charitable donations."

July 11, 2010

Obama's great illegal immigration idea

Rather than using massive amounts of federal agents in dragnet roundups, single agents audit the books at employers. If there's suspicion of some hires, they all get fired, though no charges are filed.

No wonder the GOP hates it. It, like Arizona's nonenforced state law fining employers for hiring illegals, puts the burden on companies. And, exposes the hypocrisy of many richer Republicans over illegal immigration in general.

U.S. military: "Our imperial assassins"

Not my words. Mark Twain's, more than a century ago, part of what will be in Vol. 1 of his forthcoming autobiography. By the way, on both Cuba and the Philippines, I agree. As I do on Iraq. And as I am beginning to wonder about in Afghanistan.