September 11, 2010

Why SETI likely won't find ET


New Amazon reviews up: Paul Davis has a great new book on why SETI hasn't found "anybody" yet ... and probably won't.

Prop. 23 - The final failure of early 20th-century Progressivism?

The Big Oil-funded Proposition 23 in California, if it succeeds, may well spell the end to early 20th century Gov. Hiram Johnson's three-legged stool of progressive reforms of a century ago. Andrew Leonard has some thoughts on this proposition itself, but doesn't carry his reasoning nearly far enough.

It's clear that all three of the three legs of Hiram Johnson's stool of initiative, referendum and recall are broken.

The Davis fiasco (thank doorknob Issa wasn't elected to replace him) showed Big Money could corrupt recalls.

The initiative process has already long been corrupted.

And, as Prop. 23 is a referendum on previous state actions, not just an initiative, it looks like that third leg is about to disintegrate, too.

September 10, 2010

China: Green cheater or green genius

On the surface, it certainly appears the great Red giant is a big Green cheat. Surprised? It's industrial policy, mercantilist trade, etc., right?

Well, first, it couldn't be a big Green cheat without lots of enabling by the U.S. and the EU. Nobody's filing WTO antidumping cases, even though this is clearly what Beijing is doing.
(M)ultinational companies and trade associations in the clean energy business, as in many other industries, have been wary of filing trade cases, fearing Chinese officials’ reputation for retaliating against joint ventures in their country and potentially denying market access to any company that takes sides against China.

And, proof this is not just illegal subsidies, but will actually become "dumping," if not already?
Government-subsidized turbine makers are now preparing for large-scale exports to the United States and Europe, which could also result in violations of W.T.O. rules.

Chicken-shittedness is alive and well, in other words. And, this isn't "unskilled labor," like making plastic trinkets arguably is.

In fact, this is at the heart of Preznit Kumbaya's green jobs push. Which is rapidly being undercut:
China is also on track to make nearly half of the world’s wind turbines this year. China offers financial incentives for utilities to use wind power, which is less costly than solar power, and the country passed the United States last year as the world’s largest wind turbine market.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is "beginning discussions" on how to respond. Just like this administration, a day late and 8.3 yuan short.

Instead of "beginning discussions," Team Obama needs to listen to Alan Tonelson and Kevin L. Kearns of the United States Business and Industry Council. The pair argue that we need to continue reducing our trade deficit as one part of continuing to stimulate the economy. Fighting Chinese dumping in green manufacture would be a good part of that program.

For a further look at some of these arguments, with a somewhat different angle than mine, visit Salon.

September 09, 2010

Nostalgia 1, Andy Griffith as pitchman 0

Andy Griffth, aka Mayberry's Sheriff Taylor? Not so beloved back in home-state North Carolina after cutting PSA videos for Obama's health care plan.

Eddie Bernice Johnson, liar

I've known for years that the south Dallas Congresswoman wasn't that liberal. Even before she showed herself a moderate "squish" on the Iraq War.

Now, as the scandal over steering college scholarships to her relatives continues to expand, it's clear she's unethical, too.

The latest?

Congresswoman Johnson asked for those controversial Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarship checks to be sent directly to her grandkids, not their schools:
the letters suggest a far more direct role for the Dallas Democrat than she acknowledged in the last week after revelations by The News that she awarded at least 23 scholarships to her relatives and the children of a top staffer – in violation of the foundation's nepotism and residency rules.

"There have been statements made by Congresswoman Johnson that she was oblivious to the process and that she was sort of detached from it and was not involved in the detail," (Johnson's GOP challenger Stephen) Broden said. "We see here that she was orchestrating how the checks should be made out."

It's too late this year, but assuming she survives the latest electoral challenge, there's GOT TO BE either a primary challenger, or a Green Party general-election opponent, who will step up.

September 08, 2010

Your one-stop Pentagon! A scary as hell thought

Who needs a State Dept or a Directorate of National Intelligence, anyway, when the Pentagon is taking over more and more of those functions?

It's a great article with many angles. Tom Englehardt notes that leaking is OK, if you're a general trying to do an end run around civilians, including the Preznit, who will only intercede when the loss of face is overwhelming.

Tom also notes that Sec Def Gates, along with generals such as Petraeus and Odierno, will sometimes go straight to the teevee to try to work around the civilians, as in trying to keep troops in Iraq or Afghanistan past Obama's stated deadline. And I love that he labels Petraeus as the Teflon general.

No wonder Gates wants to continue deficit-inflating budgets, no matter his reputation as a trimmer.

That said, Bush started this by not having Rummy ride tighter herd on the generals, but, by making Afghanistan his own war, and other things, Obama has been not just an enabler, but an abetter of the brass hats expanding their powers at the expense of civilians, at least at the expense of the civilian at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

September 07, 2010

Hypocrisy alert: Tony the Pony on TPM

A nonleftist, neolib former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, appears on a nonleftist, neolib blog, Talking Points Memo, to advise a nonleftist, neolib president, Barack Obama, whom TPM calls "left-leaning."

Man, Josh Marshall and his minions go more in the tank for Obama every day.

Want more proof? David Kurtz swallows Obama's PR line on not privatizing Social Security with a puff piece blog quote of him without any comment.

I told him:
If you really believe what he said today, you’re gullible. It’s his commission, and he stacked it with a mix of conservatives and neolibs who want to whack Social Security.

Sure, Obama may say he opposes **privatizing** it, and just maybe he does. But, not a word out of him about trimming benefits, raising the retirement age to 70, etc.

Don’t give him a puff blog post for a puff comment.

Peter Orzag: Just another neolib Dem

Who wants to extend Bush's tax cuts for the rich, albeit on grounds that it might be necessary to extend his tax cuts for the not-so-rich. Oh, and he wants to "adjust" Social Security, too. Bastard.

September 06, 2010

New Amazon nonfiction book reviews up

Is "Water" all that it's cracked up to be by some, or is it all wet? Find out my thoughts on it and others. Are things really "Poorly Made in China"? What is "The Miracle" (if any) of modern Asia's wealth? (And, yes, I posted a review on a Rodney Stark book I haven't read. "Civilization clashers" and Christian fundamentalists can just deal with it.)

Douthat half-right on equal opportunity nuttery

Ross Douthat punches somewhat above his weight to note that, in the wake of the James Lee hostage-taking at Discovery's offices, that it's not Greens or Libertarians or LaRouchies alone who hold conspiratorial beliefs.

But, he only punches somewhat above his weight. A comment like this undercuts his insightfulness:
If we understand those paranoias to be symbolic beliefs, rather than real convictions — an attention-grabbing way of saying, “I consider Obama phony, dishonest and un-American” — then conservative behavior makes a lot more sense.
How can he say that without in-depth polling? Let's look at some issues.

The "Socialist" claim, especially if it comes from the same people who want government to take its hands off their Medicare? Nope, real belief. Out of huge ignorance.

The "Muslim" claim? Well, those Muslims are often A-rab "dune coons," etc. C'mon, Ross, it's code-word racism. At least in a fair percentage of the cases. (And, the refusal of America's first black president to engage with that isn't helpful.)

But Douthat partially redeems himself:
Such beliefs can still be dangerous. The line between what’s symbolic and what’s real isn’t always clear, and a determined demagogue can exploit symbolic beliefs as well as real ones.

He concludes by noting the folly of political establishments, though Obama's is one of political will and political chess-playing, while Bush's was one of arrogance and ... yes, since he didn't deny the claims he had been chosen by God ... conspiracy.

Sorry, Ross, they're not equivalent.

Happy Labor Day

First, a serious thanks to the public safety folks, the hospital folks, etc., who are working today and need to.

Second, sadly, if you're in retail or similar, this is no holiday for you. But, even if you're working today, you may still not get 40 hours this week.

And, this trend doesn't bode well for the future. (As if many of us need to hear that.)

OK, a rhetorical question ... will Obama take part in any traditional Democratic Labor Day activities?

September 05, 2010

'Freedom' is just another novel for Obama not to get

Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" soared in sales after President Barack Obama was reported to have received an advance copy at a Martha's Vineyard bookstore.

Well, per the title of this post, Frank Rich pointedly says "Freedom" is our equivalent of "The Great Gatsby" or "Bonfire of the Vanities" and that Obama just doesn't get it, or his most recent speech, the "end of Iraq comment" Oval Office vomitoria, wouldn't have been the limp dishwater that it was.

Rich fires both barrels:
What was so grievously missing from Obama’s address was any feeling for what has happened to our country during the seven-and-a-half-year war whose “end” he was marking. That legacy of anger and grief is what “Freedom” mainlines to its readers. ... The other American casualties of Iraq include the credibility of both political parties, neither of which strenuously questioned the rush to war. ... And yet here we are, slouching toward yet another 9/11 anniversary, still waiting for a correction, with even our president, an eloquent Iraq war opponent, slipping into denial.

It's well worth a read.

Who's more conservative: Obama or Reagan?

As President Kumbaya, to riff on Yeats, continues to "slouch toward Republicanism," here's food for thought.

Jimmy Wales gives Jay Rosen types a media smackdown

Jay Rosen needs to talk to Jimmy Wales. Wikipedia's founder is bullish on news media, even old-fashioned print. AND, contra Mr. Jay, he says micropayments CAN work, especially with modern mobile apps. (Oh, BTW, there was a story about 2 weeks ago on how PayPal has regeared itself for easier acceptance of micropayments.