March 19, 2011

Who invents names for military operations??? Operation Odyssey Dawn???

Beyond the clearly PR-ish, like Operation Enduring Freedom, now, with the air action against Libya, we have Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Is nobody in the military, or Pentagon civilians, familiar with Homer's epic? Odysseus taking a decade to get home, including time with the lotus-eaters, on an island off today's Tunisia. The whole epic is about getting lost or stuck on various places on the edges of North Africa.

March 18, 2011

Hidden energy costs and nuclear power

Over at National Journal, Ronald Brownstein Ron Brownstein about discusses in detail how market energy prices will be distorted until we discuss the risks of energy production in detail.
(I)t’s not unrealistic to demand better ways to understand and compare the relative dangers posed by the competing energy sources—oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable options such as solar and wind. That’s almost impossible to do now because so few of the risks associated with these sources are incorporated into their price. The operation of energy markets today actually impedes our ability to rationally assess and prepare for energy-related dangers, because the prices we pay provide such a distorted picture of the true costs, and full risks, of the power we consume.
No, but the bipartisan foreign policy establishment won't put a price tag on wars, military spending, spending on private soldiers of fortune like Blackwater and more.

Brownstein goes on to note two main hidden costs: failure to adequately price the cost of possible disaster and failure to account for environmental destruction costs.

Alleged "free marketers" use that second failure to oppose energy efficiency measures, like the federal government's mandated phase-out of old-style incandescent light bulbs.

Leave it to pseudo-free market rationalist Cato to compare apples and oranges with European and American energy costs without talking about hidden American costs.

Ditto for someone from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

More on that issue from Brownstein:
That amounts to a subsidy for fossil fuels, particularly coal, which emits the most carbon; one recent National Academy of Sciences study calculated that the “hidden” cost of coal-fired electricity (measured in both conventional pollutants and carbon) approaches the price that consumers now pay. The federal liability limits likewise subsidize oil drillers and nuclear-plant operators: If they needed to cover more (much less all) of their risk, they would pay more for insurance and capital investment, and the price of the power they produce would rise.
People who know environmental issues, not to mention climate science issues, know that's just the tip of the subsidies issue. As noted above, our large military footprint in the Middle East is another such subsidy.

Beyond that, if we priced in the subsidies for all forms and sources of energy, we might just push people into conserving more of it, Cato and industry flacks aside.

On the first issue, William Saletan of Slate has an excellent article, in the wake of Japan's nuclear concerns, about how nuclear power is saving lives every day compared to fossil fuels.

CFLs, libertarians, and hidden cost denial

Another shock me here.

From one of the New York Times' "Room for Debate" set of mini-columns on a subject, we get one that doesn't really even deserve such space, namely the wingnut conspiracy theories over compact fluorescent lights and the GOP Congressional wingnuts' attempt ot roll back the mandated phase-out of current incandescent bulbs.

And, gives in doubly. One writer is from Cato, and another from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Leave it to pseudo-free market rationalist Cato to compare apples and oranges with European and American energy costs without talking about hidden American costs.

Ditto for someone from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

And, the Times will either be stupid enough or arrogant enough to put this behind the metered paywall.

Update: Ron Brownstein at National Journal agrees about hidden energy costs.

March 17, 2011

Unemployment still not changing

The seasonably unadjusted numbers for unemployment and underemployment still aren't budging.

Black votes, gay rights and religiosity

Is it "OK" to claim that black voters aren't that much different than white voters on gay rights, and especially gay marriage issues, once you factor out their religiosity?

I say absolutely not.

That would be like saying white voters are more likely to support abortion rights while factoring out their lower religiosity.

Black-white differences on some issues, like, say, a school bond election, will have nothing to do with religiosity. But, on a moral issue, you can't just factor out, or statistically "control out," religious beliefs when demographics show they definitely exist.

But, in light of discussion on the Maryland House of Delegates has essentially killing a gay marriage bill,largely due to black opposition, aside from the expected GOP opposition, this issue has come up again.

A commenter named "s" on this Ed Brayton post about the Maryland bill wants to do that, to the point of caps-lock screaming when I called him out, and mentioned people like black lesbian blogger Pam Spaulding, proprietor of
Pam's House Blend, did the same thing with California's Prop. 8.

"S" first claimed I was mistaken, and that another blogger from her team did that.

Nope. (There was one such blogger, but not JUST him.)

I found the post Pam herself had about black voting patterns and Prop. 8. "S," when I posted that link, refused to address it.

Pam herself essentially tries to separate black voters from their greater religiosity, which the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force also did. The task force engaged in "hand-waving" at exit polls which pointed out the racial difference without trying to statistically debunk them.

And, there's this blog post, where Pam quotes extensively from a black woman (but not explicitly identified as gay) divinity student, who claims white in the gay rights movement are putting blacks at the back of the bus. She quotes the Rev. Irene Monroe:
But when critiquing the dominant white LGBTQ community's ongoing efforts to gain marriage equality and its treatment of blacks as their second-class allies in the struggle a reality check happens - both straight and queer African American communities bond together against their strategy for marriage equality.
I don't know if Monroe is 90, 60, 30 or 10 percent correct on her assessment. But, I do know it's anecdotal.

Contra "S" at Ed's blog, you can't, without losing logical coherency, cite your expertise in statistics to show that ethnicity was not a huge factor while "controlling out" religiosity, and then reject exit polling on Prop. 8 without providing statistically valid reasons for doing so.

And, as I blogged more than a year and a half ago, I'm not the only person by any means to pick up on this.

Even blacks who aren't currently religious, i.e., NONEs, as comments on Ed's blog note, are more likely than white counterparts to be inimical to gay rights. It appears, especially in the case of one black commenter who noted she was largely raised by a grandmother, that black "churchiness" may have made a multi-generational pass-through.

Ignoring this issue won't lessen its reality or make it go away.

Beyond her own post on Prop. 8 and voting patters, we also have, by another blogger that was part of her group blog and maybe still is a post like this, also beating down discussion of the issue, and as a straight white person, apparently engaged in concern trolling, too. And white liberal concern trolling by a "Radical Russ" ultimately probably makes the issue worse.

I'm not black. Nor gay. But, I have black friends, and gay friends, though no black gay friends of which I am aware.

And, it's not just blacks and gay rights. There's black atheists, like Infidel Guy. But, other than him, those with a "name" are few and far between, likely for similar reasons, from what I've seen online.

And, I'm a secularist, which makes me look quite askance at religious people justifying holding down a minority, while themselves being of another minority.

Otherwise, referencing anecdotal stories from or about individual black voters, gay or straight, as Pam does, doesn't erase the statistical evidence on the Ed Brayton post.

As for the source of my comment about Pam's House Blend, and a white liberal concern troller like Radical Russ, who had the particular blog post just above?

A person like Radical Russ exemplies part of the problem, to which you are a contributor, namely, the idea that white liberals, whether gay or straight, simply cannot speak on this issue because we have no "standing." I reject that.

I reject that idea, and I reject that type of concern trolling. That's why I call myself a skeptical left liberal.

Back to Pam's House Blend. Again, not by her, but another blogger of her group, a post that wants to cut off discussion just doesn't cut it. Pam herself, from what I can see on the issue, has blogged little about it; her blog on the Maryland bill is primarily straight news, a little analysis, and no commentary.

March 16, 2011

Tiger Woods, you're no Tiger Woods

Golfer Woods, we saw the real Golfer Woods. (Riffing on Lloyd Bentsen.) You're not the real Tiger Woods. I don't care what you claim about yourself.

Cardinals nightmare flashback history

Over at ESPN, former St. Louis Cardinal closer Todd Worrell is interviewed for his role in arguably the worst officiating decision (outside of a bribe-induced call, at least) in professional sports (inside the U.S. at least).

Worrell beats Jorge Orta of the Kansas City Royals to first base, and gets the first out of the inning, Game 6, 1985 World Series. Except in the eyes of Don Denkinger, he didn't.


Yep, we're talking about the Don Denkinger blown call, Game 6, 1985 World Series. For your and my cringing, here's the ESPN story.

Here's Worrell:
"Plays like that, no matter how many years go by, they are always fresh in your mind," Worrell said. "You can recall and visualize in slow motion what took place real quick."

Worrell knew Orta was out. He remembers Orta stepping on his heel after he had caught the ball. But Denkinger was behind him, standing close to the first-base coaching box. "It took me a while to spin around, but obviously when I spun around, my first visual of him was his arms straight out for a safe call."

It took Worrell some time to process what he was seeing. "It seemed like everything just kind of stopped for a split-second when that play happened," he recalls.
That said, let's be honest.

That wouldn't have been the third out of the inning anyway, first of all. There were no outs when the play happened.

Second, the way the Cards' bats went to sleep after Game 4, they didn't deserve to win. This game was tied, after all; the Cards weren't ahead. And, it was in K.C.

On the other hand, if not so irate over the blown call, would Jack Clark had caught the Steve Balboni foul pop-up? Worrell thinks so, calling the blown call a "mental distraction."

So we have two out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth. Dick Howser wouldn't have used all the pinch-hitters and pinch-runners he did. Dan Quisenberry would have stayed in the game for at least one more inning.

Advantage Royals in extra innings if they didn't close out in 9.

But, that "mental distraction" carried over to Game 7. So, who knows?

Other thoughts? Worrell has plenty.

Worrell opposes further expansion of instant replay in baseball. Like other players and managers with similar thoughts, he says it would remove the human element.

But, he does think this shows why umpires need to collaborate more.
In 1985, if Denkinger had told Herzog to wait a minute and if Denkinger had then called his crew over, Worrell believes they would have gotten the call right.

"They are not going to slow the game down any more," he said with a smile. He doesn't understand why they don't just ask each other if they didn't get a good look at a play. "Sometimes the farther away from the call the better perspective you have on it, because it happens slower."
Oh, and one other thing. Worrell thinks umps are getting bad training.
Denkinger was standing exactly where he was supposed to be on Oct. 26, 1985. "Well, you are training them wrong," is always Worrell's reply. "I contend that he was not in the right spot to make that call. He could stand where he was 50 times and never get the call right. He should have been with the ball; if he follows the ball he's out of the way. If he would have followed Jack Clark in he would have been right there to see the call and he would have got it right."
That said, Denkinger DOES favor instant replay. More so after Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game last year.

Reflecting on the team in general, I've always thought that, overall, 1985was the best of the three Whitey Herzog World Series teams, followed by 1987then 1982. Yet, 1982 was the only winner of the three. Chemistry? The newness of it all in 1982?

Also, yes, there was the "mental distraction" after the blown call. But, it shouldn't have carried over to Game 7. Mild-mannered John Tudor punching a fan in the clubhouse? Joaquin Andujar becoming "one nutbar Dominican"?

Is that a partial reflection on Herzog? That's tough to say, but ...

Final fallout fromWar on Iraq — Iran and Shi'a worries

I think at least a small part of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment had to know, in advance of March 2003, that an invasion of Iraq with the amount of troops we were using had some chance of empowering Iran.

While not all Shi'ites, especially not many in Iraq, look to Tehran for guidance or marching orders, many in the smaller Gulf states between Saudi Arabia and Iran may have at least some leaning that way. And, Riyadh worries that "some leaning" could increase. The map below illustrates this well.

The Sunni-Shi'ite division in the Middle East underscores Saudi Arabian fears of Iran.
And, recent events prove this out.

Saudi Shi'ites protest, support Bahrain brethren.
One Saudi Shi'ite activist said hundreds attended several protests including one in the eastern region's main Shi'ite center, Qatif, to show their backing for Bahraini Shi'ites who are protesting against the Sunni royal family.

Bahrain encampment in capital has a Shi'ite angle.
Saudi Arabia has voiced concern that if Bahrain is taken over by Shiites, the country would become a satellite state of Iran. But the crackdown may only increase protesters’ sympathy for the Shiite-ruled country, some observers said Wednesday.
More here on Saudi worries about Shi'ites driving this all, and, by extension, Saudi worries about Iran. Here's details on it's arrest of a a Shi'ite cleric last month that triggered this.

Kuwait debates sending troops to Bahrain.

Notice a common thread?

Meanwhile, just because Iraqi Shi'ites don't take orders from Tehran doesn't mean that, to play an anti-American bank shot, someone like Moqtada al-Sadr can't throw gas on the fire.

So, the bottom line? Bush surely had somebody warning him about this.

The neoconservatives behind the throne, with their even more insular thought, would have poo-poohed such worries. Well, democracy promotion had been "problematic" since the Islamic Salvation Front won the 1991 Algerian elections. So, even the neocons had no excuse.

Even if there's no connection to Iran, Shi'ites can exploit that idea. And, given their varying degrees of repression in Gulf states, they will.

Obama is kind of getting hoist, but it's on Bush's petard.

CIA agent ransomed from Pakistan

What else can you say when the U.S. paid more than $2 million to families of people allegedly killed by Raymond Davis to get him out of the country?

That said, while it may have calmed the families a bit, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence? Maybe not.
One ISI official said CIA director Leon Panetta and ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha talked in mid-February to smooth out the friction between the two spy agencies. A U.S. official confirmed that the phone call took place.

Pasha demanded the U.S. identify "all the Ray Davises working in Pakistan, behind our backs," the official said.

He said Panetta agreed "in principle" to declare such employees, the official said, but would not confirm if the agency had done so.
That's going to restrict CIA efforts to expand the undeclared war against Taliban-type operatives inside Pakistan, for sure. And, it's probably going to crimp its efforts to keep tabs on ISI agents supporting such groups.

March 15, 2011

Yes, Big Oil has no hair

Actually, it's Medium Oil, in the persona of Enbridge Oil.

Enbridge, which had a leak from a Michigan pipeline a few months back, wants to build a bigger one through British Columbia. Given how it handled the Michigan leak, it raised concerns.

So cybertricksters Yes Lab got a new campaign cooking. And, it worked:
“This was a funny way to dramatize the fact that neither Enbridge nor any other oil company can prevent spills, and that they basically have no cleanup plan,” said Shannon McPhail, a former Canadian oil worker and Canadian spokesperson for People Enbridge Ruined in Michigan (PERM), the group responsible for MyHairCares. “What's happening in Michigan proves that.”
Enbridge, though, was not amused. Not even close.

Yes Lab has more details on the pipeline:
Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would cut across the Rocky Mountains, the pristine Great Bear rain forest, and over 1,000 streams and rivers. The pipeline would carry 700,000 barrels a day of petroleum products across 1,170 kilometres between Alberta’s Tar Sands and the Pacific Coast, where supertankers would carry the crude though the treacherous Douglas Channel.
It's enough to be concerned, to be sure.

And, why is nobody in the U.S. so good at cybertricksterism as Yes Lab?

The U.S. had a Fukushima - in 1959

I had heard nothing about Atomics International's near-disaster at Santa Susana, Calif., until now.

I don't doubt Tokyo Electric is being at least reasonably honest about events there. That said, if something similar happened in the United States today, I wouldn't hold my breath.

The Santa Susana cover-up continued long after 1959, after all. A full 30 years later:
Once the widespread nature of contamination was known, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was brought in to aid in the cleanup. One focus of concern was the level of contamination in the actual power plant buildings.

“The EPA demanded that they be able to inspect the buildings themselves before they were torn down to make sure they had been cleaned up,” (Dan Hirsch, president of the nonprofit anti-nuclear group the Committee to Bridge the Gap), said. “When the EPA arrived on the appointed day, three of the five buildings they were supposed to study had been already torn down, including the SRE. And some of the debris from those buildings was taken to regular municipal trash facilities. Radioactive metals went to a metal recycler and got melted into metal products.”
The story goes on to note that workers applied for compensation, but, because records were either imprecise, missing, or suppressed, they were largely denied.

Beyond that, Boeing, which had bought Atomic Dynamics' parent, and still is site owner, opposed a California bill on site clean-up as late as 2008.

And, that's the problem with nuclear power here.

It is safe, itself, to date, when compared to fossil fuels, but the nuclear power industry is at least as duplicitous as Big Oil.

And, that's not so much an "indicator" of capitalism in general as it is of hypercapitalism, American style. Of course, at times in the past, like the run-up to WWII, German and Japanese companies had their own ethical issues.

The Dark Side of the Internet - Part 2 - political activism

Yesterday, I took a long look at whether the Internet lived up to the hype of cyberutopians Clay Shirky and Michael Shermer, and if not, how far short it fell.

Well, now, I'd like to take a bit more of a look at one particular issue within this, and that's whether or not the Net really empowers people politically, whether it primarily promotes slacktivism.

The entree to that?

Via a Facebook discussion, here's a dystopian take on Internet skeptic Evgeny Morozov as being over-dystopian.
Morozov thinks that the “ridiculously easy group-forming” that his leading nemesis Clay Shirky described in his recent book Cognitive Surplus is, in reality, leading largely to cognitive crap, at least as it pertains to civic action and political activism. Indeed, at one point in Chapter 7 (the creatively-titled, “Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism”), Morozov speaks of the development of what we might think of as a “tragedy of the civic commons” (my term, not his). ...

But this ignores many legitimate forms of social organization / protesting that have been facilitated by the Net and digital technologies. Despite what Morozov suggests, we haven’t all become lethargic, asocial, apolitical cave-dwelling Baywatch­ rerun-watching junkies. If all Netizens are just hooked on a cyber-sedative that saps their civic virtue, what are we to make of the millions of progressives who so successfully used the Net and digital technologies to organize and elect President Obama? (Believe me, I wish they wouldn’t have been so civic-minded and rushed to the polls in record numbers to elect that guy!)
The main takeaway I get from this review of Morozov is that the reviewer thinks he's being too dismissive of the possibility of the Internet transforming democratic action.

I disagree. I think, at least in the democratic U.S., governments have found new stasis or equilibrium, a la this"hype cycle" graphic.

Above the level of a small-town city council, do governments even take notice of e-mail action alert e-mails any more? Do you think they do? Do you, like me, assume they don't, and so participate in fewer such campaigns?

My guess is that staffers at congressional offices and such look at those e-mails, then go to environmental, civil liberties and other activist organization websites, and look at the "standard language" suggested by the agency, then discount all e-mails based on that.

I'm guessing that federal bureaus and agencies act similarly.

I'm also guessing that, in larger states, state elected officials' offices and state agencies are doing that more and more.

Ditto on Twitter feeds, if they see thousands of Tweets linking to the same bit.ly or tinyurl.com webpage.

In other words, government is screening you out.

That said, an old-fashioned phone call reaches either a real person, or a real-person's human-voiced voice mail. And, other than the higher tech of cellphones vs. landlines making it a bit easier to do the call, though no easier to speak, there's no tech advance here.

Or, are you a bit more skeptical of human psychology than that, even? Do you believe the ease of an e-mail alert is a salve for the conscience, an easy "indulgence" similar to buying carbon credits rather than taking real action against global warming? (See here for my thoughts on carbon credit indulgences.)

I do.

In other words, does the Internet have a tendency to foster "slacktivism"? Possibly, even quite possibly. Is that better than nothing at all? Yes. How much better will decide whether you lean toward Morozov or Shirky.

Now, I don't claim to have the answers for something more than that, but, I do think that's another fact that Net utopians don't address. In short, Shirky's utopianism about the Net is matched, possibly, by a utopianism about human nature.

But, not all governments are semi-transparent to transparent. What about authoritarian or totalitarian ones?

Again, from the review:
Morozov says modern China, Putin’s Russia and Hugo Chavez are embracing new digital technologies in an attempt to better control them or learn how to use them to better spy on their citizens, and he implies that this is just another way they will dupe the citizenry and seduce them into a slumber so they will avert their eyes and ears to the truth of the repression that surrounds them. Sorry, but once again, I’m not buying it.
Here, Adam Thierer seems ignorant of 19th-century European history.

I don't know about France, but, places further east, after the rise of daily newspapers in larger cities, provide an instructional parallel.

Rather than ban newspapers outright, or even censor them to near the point of being unintelligible, governments such as the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary let leading newspapers of the left stay on racks at coffeehouses and other high-traffic public places precisely so they could keep tabs on who appeared subversive, what information was getting the most reading, etc.

And, presumably, in exchange for letting such places stay in business, occasionally leaning on their owners to rat out a few patrons to stay in business.

Now, Morozov may be overstating the case with the idea that Chavez is, or can be, "duping" people. There, I would agree with Thierer. Somewhat. But, not nearly totally.

As I noted in my original post, a leaked e-mail from HBGary, one of the companies that wanted to spy on “Anonymous” and online supporters of it and Julian Assange, showed it has plans to ramp up corporate online sockpuppetry to a whole new level.

Now, Venezuela or Iran may not have consultancy companies with this level of expertise, or folks inside its government, to pull off something similar. But, you can bet Hu Jintao's China and Vladimir Putin's Russia do.

Speaking of, it now (3/20/11) seems China is blocking Gmail. Another nail in the coffin of Net utopians, as well as that of transationalists.

Again, Thierer should read some history of 100-plus years ago.

The Okhrana, the Czarist predecessor to the KGB, was notorious for its use of human agents provacateur. They included the man who assassinated Prime Minister Pytor Stolypin in 1911.

The use of fake Tweeters, fake Facebookers, etc. to do similar by electronic means should be seriously considered by the U.S. foreign policy establishment when monitoring unrest, or apparent unrest, in these countries, in fact.

But, at the same time, we don't need to go abroad, or leave the land of democracy, to talk about governments abusing the Internet

I mentioned HB Gary above. We don't even need to do that.

Under the Bush Administration (and perhaps still ongoing with Team Obama), the FBI spied on, harassed, and even arrested on flimsy charges individuals involved in peace/antiwar groups. How much of that was enabled by electronic snooping, or even electronic sockpuppetry?

And, let's not forget the Patriot Act itself and the Internet spying it allows.

For Shirky to write his utopian BS without even discussing that? Unconscionable. If the mainstream media did something like that, he'd be vomiting all over the Internet.

Phillies' injury woes pile up

First it was Chase Utley. Now it's Placido Polanco who's ailing in the Phillies' infield.

Polanco insists he's not worried about a hyperextended elbow:
"It's just a day-to-day thing I think," Polanco said. "When I've had it before, I never stopped playing. But since I had surgery, they took me out."

Polanco was limited to 132 games in 2010 while dealing with chronic left elbow pain. He had scar tissue and bone spurs removed from the arm when he underwent surgery in November.

"It's right where I had the surgery, but it's nothing bad," he said. "I've had it before. I've had it a million times. But the fact that I had surgery on that elbow, we're being safe. We're playing it very safe. We'll see how it feels tomorrow and the next day, take it a day at a time."
Reality?

If he's dinged enough to play no more than 130 games this year, and at last year's OPS+ of about .726, and if Utley comes in with about the same .832 OPS+ of last year, assuming Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard don't improve on last year, and that batting order doesn't strike a lot of fear anywhere.

Add in the tendinits of Brad Lidge, whether he winds up as closer or set-up man, and I wouldn't print those Red Sox-Phillies World Series tickets and programs yet.

Who invented baseball?

No, not Abner Doubleday.

But, not Alexander Cartwright, either.

New MLB official historian John Thorn, in his new book, “Baseball in the Garden of Eden, The Secret History of the Early Game,” has narrowed it down to three possibilities.
From the middle of the 19th century, he introduces the names of Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton and Louis Fenn Wadsworth, the last of which he is reasonably sure laid out the field, put nine men on that field, and expanded a game from seven innings to nine.
Sorry, that's all the details in the Yahoo story. Guess we'll have to buy the book for more.

Your Gallup Poll duh of the week

Boulder, Colo., leads national metro areas in well-being. Rocky Mountains? Fairly liberal social scene? Major metro area not too far away?

Can't understand why it leads the nation.

Your complete national rankings here.

March 14, 2011

Greg Palast: One reason I don't support Truthout

Greg Palast is the kind of left-liberal that led me to identify myself on this blog and elsewhere as a skeptical left-liberal.

Non-skeptical left-liberals can be counted on for one or more of the following foibles:
1. Supporting the "woo" of alt-med pseudomedicine. (Antivaxxers get lumped here.)
2. Supporting some anti-government conspiracy thinking.
3. Being rabidly opposed to nuclear power.

The Fukushima radiation release levels get put into context.
The details?
And, in this Truthout piece, that's Greg Palast. (He also falls in category 2 at times.)
I don't know the law in Japan, so I can't tell you if Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) can plead insanity to the homicides about to happen.
Incindiary, at the least. If made in reference to a similar disaster in the U.S., arguably legally libelous.

Followed by innuendo of open-ended implications:
Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called "SQ" or "Seismic Qualification." That is, the owners swear that all components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from al-Qaeda.

The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry does it all the time.
Hey, douchebag:
1. Japan never had a 9.0 before.
2. The plant survived that, even though not certified that high.
3. The seawall that was supposed to protect the diesel generators maybe should have been built even higher, but unfortunately wasn't.

And, speaking of both that and "category 2":
Last night, I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.
Oh, Truthout has some good stuff that's not reprinted in other locations, so I won't ask to come off its e-mailing list.

But, with a numbnuts like Palast, it won't get my money. (Oh, and Greg, the cheesy 1940s Clark Kent "reporter" hat on your Twitter pic? Thanks for the laugh.)

Update: Palast is busted in another lie. He claims Tokyo Electric is going to build two new nuclear plants in south Texas?

The reality? No, it was just seeking to become a 10 percent owner.

And, speaking of realities?

The reality on nuclear power dangers in general?

William Saletan of Slate has an excellent article, in the wake of Japan's nuclear concerns, about how nuclear power is saving lives every day compared to fossil fuels.

And, my blog thoughts here.

Meanwhile, the latest nonhysterical, non-axe-grinding information on Japan's plants (as fo the start of March 15 in my part of the U.S.) is here.

(And, per Leo L. on Facebook, none of this mentions Truthout's wholesale copy-and-paste of previously used material. Either the NYT is OK with quick-term giveaways of Krugman's material, or Truthout is too poor and too far off its radar screen on fair use issues to matter.)

African American beliefs and gay rights

The Maryland House of Delegates has essentially killed a gay marriage bill. And, it's largely due to black opposition, aside from the expected GOP opposition.

When California passed the anti-gay marriage issue Proposition 8 a couple of years ago, beyond the big dollar spending of the Mormon church, there was a question as to whether African-American voting patterns may have tipped a close election.

I know the issue of African American voting trends and possible influence was a HUGE item of discussion after California passed Prop. 8. Some liberals wanted to dismiss discussion of the issue out of hand. One blog I recall Pam's House Blend, headed by black lesbian Pam Spaulding, but with numerous guest had posts trying to tamp down discussion.

I found the post Pam herself had about black voting patterns and Prop. 8.

Pam herself essentially tries to separate black voters from their greater religiosity, which the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force also did.

And, that doesn't fly in my world. Either her, or the task force's study.

That would be like saying white voters oppose an election initiative that restricts abortion because they're less religious.

And, there's this blog post, where Pam quotes extensively from a black woman (but not explicitly identified as gay) divinity student, who claims white in the gay rights movement are putting blacks at the back of the bus. She quotes the Rev. Irene Monroe:
But when critiquing the dominant white LGBTQ community's ongoing efforts to gain marriage equality and its treatment of blacks as their second-class allies in the struggle a reality check happens - both straight and queer African American communities bond together against their strategy for marriage equality.
I don't know if Monroe is 90, 60, 30 or 10 percent correct on her assessment. But, I do know it's anecdotal.

That said, I'll give Pam partial credit back for noting the NAACP took a No. on 8 position, and for this one on the Maryland bill. However, that post is almost entirely news-style, with little commentary or analysis.

But, with the Maryland House of Delegates killing a gay marriage bill due in part to the opposition of black legislators and black churches, it HAS TO BE brought up:
The difference apparently was the opposition from predominantly black churches, as well as from the Maryland Catholic Conference. Democrats hold a 98-43 advantage over Republicans in the House, but a third (34) of the Democrats belong to the legislative black caucus. With all but one Republican opposing the bill, the bill needed support from the black caucus to get the 71 votes required for passage. In the two weeks before floor debate, at least two members of the black caucus made public switches from co-sponsoring the bill to opposing it.

"The black churches -- since I've been here -- have never asked us for anything, that I can recall. They are asking now, 'Don't use the word marriage,'" Del. Cheryl Glenn, a member of the black caucus, said during floor debate. She said "my faith tells me" to vote against it.

The opposition from black churches, particularly those in Prince George's County, became so significant that The Washington Post devoted a March 8 story to the issue.
Especially when at least one black in the Maryland legislature is ignorant, whehter deliberately or not, about gay history.

Like Del. Emmett Burns:
Del. Emmett Burns, a member of the black caucus and an outspoken opponent of the bill, said he was called the "n-word" for his stance. He also said he was offended by comparisons between the civil rights movement and the "gay marriage" movement.

"Show me your Selma, Alabama," he said during debate. "... violates natural law. It always denies a child either a father or a mother. It promotes the homosexual lifestyle. It turns a moral wrong into a civil right. ... children will be taught that the homosexual lifestyle is on par with the heterosexual lifestyle."
Not heard of the Stonewall riots? Or Matthew Shepard?

Or there's Pastor Robert Anderson Jr.
A prominent Southern Baptist pastor, Robert Anderson Jr., pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., told Baptist Press in February that he, too, found comparisons between civil rights and "gay marriage" offensive.

"We didn't choose to be born black. To be black or African American is not sin," Anderson told Baptist Press. "The fact that we fought for civil rights, we were just fighting for justice for any man, any woman -- regardless of their skin color. ... To try to create a system and special laws for a group of citizens that are living in immorality and wanting to force all of us to embrace that as if it is morally equivalent, that is wrong."
Given that, outside of situational homosexuality in prison, in the old West, or Greek pederasty, lifelong orientation-based homosexuality doesn't appear to be choice-based, you're clueless. Deliberately clueless.

And disgusting.

Beyond that, I'll admit that I am a deliberate contrarian at times, and noting issues like this fits my persona.

But, as I blogged more than a year and a half ago, I'm not the only person by any means to pick up on this.

Even blacks who aren't currently religious, i.e., NONEs, as comments in this Ed Brayton post note, are more likely than white counterparts to be inimical to gay rights. It appears, especially in the case of one black commenter who noted she was largely raised by a grandmother, that black "churchiness" may have made a multi-generational pass-through.

Ignoring this issue won't lessen its reality or make it go away.

Beyond her own post on Prop. 8 and voting patters, we also have, by another blogger that was part of her group blog and maybe still is a post like this, also beating down discussion of the issue, and as a straight white person, apparently engaged in concern trolling, too.

As for the source of my comment about Pam's House Blend, and a white liberal concern troller like Radical Russ, who had the particular blog post just above?

A person like Radical Russ exemplies part of the problem, to which you are a contributor, namely, the idea that white liberals, whether gay or straight, simply cannot speak on this issue because we have no "standing." I reject that.

I reject that idea, and I reject that type of concern trolling. That's why I call myself a skeptical left liberal.

Back to Pam's House Blend. Again, not by her, but another blogger of her group, a post that wants to cut off discussion just doesn't cut it. Pam herself, from what I can see on the issue, has blogged little about it; her blog on the Maryland bill is primarily straight news, a little analysis, and no commentary.

Otherwise, referencing anecdotal stories from or about individual black voters, gay or straight, as Pam does, doesn't erase the statistical evidence on the Ed Brayton post.

And, it's not just blacks and gay rights. There's black atheists, like Infidel Guy. But, other than him, those with a "name" are few and far between, likely for similar reasons, from what I've seen online.

Update: A couple of other issues.

First, per one commenter at Ed's blog, you can't, without losing logical coherency, cite your expertise in statistics to show that ethnicity was not a huge factor while "controlling out" religiosity, and then reject exit polling on Prop. 8 without providing statistically valid reasons for doing so. Pam did the same. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study she cited basically did the same.

Second, contra that same commenter on Ed's blog, you cannot, IMO "control out" religion in such a case, since we have plenty of demographic research showing blacks are more religious than whites and this is an issue with religious overtones. If we were talking about a bond issue for a new elementary school, religiosity could indeed be "controlled out" on black-white differences, but it can't here.

But, I'm not going back to Ed's block to argue with someone who starts "all-caps" responding to me, then, when I ask him to chill a bit, does it even worse in a response six times as long.

I will, though, shortly work this into a new blog post following up on that idea.

Since, even with religiosity "controlled out" there was a 5.5 percent difference in ethnicity on Prop. 8 support (though "s" doesn't do a more specific black-white breakout) I think I can venture that without "controlling out" religious belief, the black-white gap on Prop. 8 is around 10 percent.

Sorry, "s," Pam, "Radical Russ," etc. You're wrong.

The Dark Side of the Internet — and social media

Now, I'm not a Luddite, either neo or paleo.

But, I'm also not a Kurzweilian, either, expecting technology to get us all living to 300 with Viagra-free perfect sexual activity. (And, that’s happening in just 30 years, says Kurzweil, with Time magazine dumb enough to give him its cover on that subject.)

So, while I appreciate making online friends, applying for jobs online, learning new things online, shopping online and more ...

I won't ignore that there IS a dark side to the Internet, even if not all of it is Orwellian. (Note: This may become a series — part 2 is here.)

Or, there's flip sides to coins, at least. And, the dark sides may be less harmful and more pedestrian than anything else. And, are in part "dark sides" only in comparison to a relentless, nearly fact-free boosterism of Internet utopians like Clay Shirky.

Take online shopping.

The flip side? Online ads becoming ever more pervasive. Online violations of private information growing and becoming more aggressive. And, in light of that, let me repeat my assertion that "Brave New World" is equally seminal as "1984,"if not more so.

And, I’m not alone in that.

“Is the Internet Changing the Way We Think?”, edited by John Brockman, the founder of the online science-and-technology site Edge.org, discusses a lot of these issues, as this Wall Street Journal review notes.
Thomas Metzinger, a philosopher, argues that the Internet isn't changing the way we think; it is exacerbating the deceptively simple challenge of "attention management." "Attention is a finite commodity, and it is absolutely essential to living a good life," he argues. The way we use the Internet today represents "not only an organized attack on the space of consciousness per se but also a mild form of depersonalization. . . . I call it public dreaming."

These are not the laments of technophobes. MIT professor Rodney Brooks, an expert on robotics, worries that the Internet "is stealing our attention. It competes for it with everything else we do." Neuroscientist Brian Knutson imagines a near future in which "the Internet may impose a 'survival of the focused,' in which individuals gifted with some natural ability to stay on target, or who are hopped up on enough stimulants, forge ahead while the rest of us flail helpless in a Web-based attentional vortex." …
The substitution of the virtual for the real is another common theme. Paleontologist Scott Sampson worries about "the loss of intimate experience with the natural world." And computer scientist Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality, says that the Internet has "become gripped by reality-denying ideology." Several of the book's contributors, particularly artists and architects, make solid arguments for the importance of unmediated experiences to the creative process. …
(Update: At the same time, Lanier is himself some sort of tech-neolib, who is dumb enough, naive enough, or on the take enough to assume that Big Data will give you or I micropayments for using its services.)

Beyond worrying about the Internet, at least one person in the book tells us not to overrate it:
The neuroscientist Joshua Greene suggests, in a blunt but apt metaphor, that the Internet, for all its revolutionary pretense, is "nothing more, and nothing less, than a very useful, and very dumb, butler.
Clay Shirky, below, can't fit "butler" or "robot" in his cyber-utopianism. I'll get to that later.

Meanwhile, there's the dark side of Twitter.

Lee Siegel immediately notes one issue:

Just a few years ago, all anyone could talk about was how to make the Internet more free. Now all anyone can talk about is how to control it.
it's a good start to his review of Evgeny Morozov's “The Net Delusion.”

He shows how American naivete and chauvinism have mixed to worship at the altar of Twitter:

He quotes the political blogger Andrew Sullivan, who proclaimed after protesters took to the streets in Tehran that “the revolution will be Twittered.” The revolution never happened, and the futilely tweeting protesters were broken with an iron hand. But Sullivan was hardly the only one to ignore the Iranian context. Clay Shirky, the media’s favorite quotable expert on all things Internet-related, effused: “This is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media.”

Frank Rich knows the truth.
The talking-head invocations of Twitter and Facebook instead take the form of implicit, simplistic Western chauvinism. How fabulous that two great American digital innovations can rescue the downtrodden, unwashed masses. That is indeed impressive if no one points out that, even in the case of the young and relatively wired populace of Egypt, only some 20 percent of those masses have Internet access.
Rich also implies that American teevee, as opposed to the effectively banned-from-America Al Jazeera, relies on foreign Tweeters out of collective corporate laziness:
That we often don’t know as much about the people in these countries as we do about their Tweets is a testament to the cutbacks in foreign coverage at many news organizations — and perhaps also to our own desire to escape a war zone that has for so long sapped American energy, resources and patience.
Meanwhile, the Internet in America is not that ethical:
As Morozov points out, don’t expect corporations like Google to liberate anyone anytime soon. Google did business in China for four years before economic conditions and censorship demands — not human rights concerns — forced it out. And it is telling that both Twitter and Facebook have refused to join the Global Network Initiative, a pact that Morozov describes as “an industrywide pledge . . . to behave in accordance with the laws and standards covering the right to freedom of expression and privacy embedded in internationally recognized documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
So, let’s not expect the Internet to radically change the ethos of American business.

To some degree, I suspect early expectations of the Internet were in part a mix of American naivete, salvific technologism and American exceptionalism that all overlapped, and are now facing reality.

Yet more on the dark side of the Net from the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, reviewing Clay Shirky's new book, as well as Morozov's.

This is a great overview of a variety of books, some claiming this is the best of times for human psychology and more, some saying the brain in some ways just can't keep pace, and some saying its six of one, a half dozen of the other.
(A)mong the new books about the Internet (there are three types): call them the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers.
In the first category? A book by new media fluffer Clay Shirky and an essay Pop Ev Psycher (yes, you are) John Tooby, both make ignorant claims about the early egalitarianism and humanism of the printing press, among other things.
Shirky’s and Tooby’s version of Never-Betterism has its excitements, but the history it uses seems to have been taken from the back of a cereal box. The idea, for instance, that the printing press rapidly gave birth to a new order of information, democratic and bottom-up, is a cruel cartoon of the truth. If the printing press did propel the Reformation, one of the biggest ideas it propelled was Luther’s newly invented absolutist anti-Semitism. And what followed the Reformation wasn’t the Enlightenment, a new era of openness and freely disseminated knowledge. What followed the Reformation was, actually, the Counter-Reformation, which used the same means—i.e., printed books—to spread ideas about what jerks the reformers were, and unleashed a hundred years of religious warfare.
I'll pass on both. As for Shirky, if he can't get the founding instrument of media, and its early influence on society, right, how can we trust his pronunciamentos on media today? Of course, we can't.

Meanwhile, Shirky's naive wiki-touting gets demolished:
In a practical, immediate way, one sees the limits of the so-called “extended mind” clearly in the mob-made Wikipedia, the perfect product of that new vast, supersized cognition: when there’s easy agreement, it’s fine, and when there’s widespread disagreement on values or facts, as with, say, the origins of capitalism, it’s fine, too; you get both sides. The trouble comes when one side is right and the other side is wrong and doesn’t know it. The Shakespeare authorship page and the Shroud of Turin page are scenes of constant conflict and are packed with unreliable information. Creationists crowd cyberspace every bit as effectively as evolutionists, and extend their minds just as fully. Our trouble is not the over-all absence of smartness but the intractable power of pure stupidity, and no machine, or mind, seems extended enough to cure that.
Gopnik then tackels the "Better-Nevers" In brief:
The books by the Better-Nevers are more moving than those by the Never-Betters for the same reason that Thomas Gray was at his best in that graveyard: loss is always the great poetic subject.
He doesn't review Morozov, but his book would probably fall halfway here, halfway in the Better-Waser group, which says the Net isn't a utopia, but we've heard similar complaints about other technology.

Chris Lehmann has a similar review of Shirky, with some Morozov, at The Nation.

Lehmann labels Shirky as not only a hand-waving utopian optimist, but a vignette-as-authoritarian writer of the same ilk as Malcolm Gladwell. It’s also clear that Shirky has more than a touch of the economic libertarian in him, deriding, or seeming to, much of the liberal-developed social contract of the last century or so in the U.S and elsewhere in the western world.

Meanwhile, a leaked e-mail from HBGary, one of the companies that wanted to spy on “Anonymous” and online supporters of it and Julian Assange, shows it has plans to ramp up corporate online sockpuppetry to a whole new level. So much for Shirky's alleged Internet egalitarianism.

Via Jim Lippard, here's a dystopian take on Morozov as being over-dystopian.

The main takeaway I get from this review of Morozov is that the reviewer thinks he's being too dismissive of the possibility of the Internet transforming democratic action.

I disagree. I think, at least in the democratic U.S., governments have found new stasis or equilibrium, a la the "hype cycle" graphic Lippard mentioned.

Above the level of a small-town city council, do governments even take notice of e-mail action alert e-mails any more? Do you think they do? Do you, like me, assume they don't, and so participate in fewer such campaigns?

Or, are you a bit more skeptical of human psychology than that, even? Do you believe the ease of an e-mail alert is a salve for the conscience, an easy "indulgence" similar to buying carbon credits rather than taking real action against global warming? (See here for my thoughts on carbon credit indulgences.)

I do.

In other words, does the Internet have a tendency to foster "slacktivism"? Yes. Is that better than nothing at all? Yes. How much better will decide whether you lean toward Morozov or Shirky.

Now, I don't claim to have the answers for something more than that, but, I do think that's another fact that Net utopians don't address. In short, Shirky's utopianism about the Net is matched, possibly, by a utopianism about human nature.

But, at the same time, we don't need to go abroad, or leave the land of democracy, to talk about governments abusing the Internet

I mentioned HB Gary above. We don't even need to do that.

Under the Bush Administration (and perhaps still ongoing with Team Obama), the FBI spied on, harassed, and even arrested on flimsy charges individuals involved in peace/antiwar groups. How much of that was enabled by electronic snooping, or even electronic sockpuppetry?

And, let's not forget the Patriot Act itself and the Internet spying it allows.

For Shirky to write his utopian BS without even discussing that? Unconscionable. If the mainstream media did something like that, he'd be vomiting all over the Internet.

Anyway, the reality is that 20 years from now, much of the Net will be Russian, Chinese and Nigeria spammers talking to each other anyway.

So, the portion of the Net that’s not foreign money spammers 20 years from now will be Big Biz PR spammers. Or, speaking of Russia and China, more and more of it will be cyberwarfare.


Update: Add alleged skeptic, but real pseudoskeptic, Michael Shermer, to the list of cyberutopians. He's so bad he believes Ray Kurzweiil's prediction that the Singularity will arrive by 2030.

Planes, cars, nukes, fossil fuels

William Saletan of Slate has an excellent article, in the wake of Japan's nuclear concerns, about how nuclear power is saving lives every day compared to fossil fuels.

Fukushima's radiation releases put into context.
The details?
If Japan, the United States, or Europe retreats from nuclear power in the face of the current panic, the most likely alternative energy source is fossil fuel. And by any measure, fossil fuel is more dangerous. The sole fatal nuclear power accident of the last 40 years, Chernobyl, directly killed 31 people. By comparison, Switzerland's Paul Scherrer Institute calculates that from 1969 to 2000, more than 20,000 people died in severe accidents in the oil supply chain (PDF). More than 15,000 people died in severe accidents in the coal supply chain—11,000 in China alone. The rate of direct fatalities per unit of energy production is 18 times worse for oil than it is for nuclear power.

Even if you count all the deaths plausibly related to Chernobyl—9,000 to 33,000 over a 70-year period—that number is dwarfed by the death rate from burning fossil fuels. The OECD's 2008 Environmental Outlook calculates that fine-particle outdoor air pollution caused nearly 1 million premature deaths in the year 2000, and 30 percent of this was energy-related. You'd need 500 Chernobyls to match that level of annual carnage. But outside Chernobyl, we've had zero fatal nuclear power accidents.
So, there's your price tag.

This put me in mind of the difference between air travel and driving. All the statistics show air travel is safer, but people don't believe it, by and large.

Why not?

Airplane accidents, when fatal, kill dozens if not hundreds at once time, and kill people from around the country if not the world, while a car accident kills a couple of people, usually local to the accident area.

At least in the western world, I suspect something similar is at play. And, it's fueled, pun intended, but some environmental groups who simply refuse to consider nuclear as part of the anti-climate change equation. It's also fueled by "War on Terror" frothers who can't think straight on breeder-type reactors.

NO to war in Libya

Ross Douthat is totally right on this. From boozy left-liberals with neo-con blood (Christopher Hitchens) through interventionist neo-lib ex-presidents (Bill Clinton) to neo-con warmongers (Bill Kristol) we do NOT need to invade Libya.

It’s a testament to the resilience of American power that we’re hearing these kind of arguments so soon after the bloodiest years of the Iraq war. It’s also a testament to the achievements of the American military: absent the successes of the 2007 troop surge, we’d probably be too busy extricating ourselves from a war-torn Iraq to even contemplate another military intervention in a Muslim nation.

But that resilience and those achievements may have set a trap for us, by encouraging the American leadership class to draw relatively narrow lessons from the Iraq war — lessons that only apply to wars premised on faulty W.M.D. intelligence, or wars led by Donald Rumsfeld.

In reality, there are lessons from our years of failure in Iraq that can be applied to an air war over Libya as easily as to a full-scale invasion or counterinsurgency. Indeed, they can be applied to any intervention — however limited its aims, multilateral its means, and competent its commanders.

One is that the United States shouldn’t go to war unless it has a plan not only for the initial military action, but also for the day afterward, and the day after that. Another is that the United States shouldn’t go to war without a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower.
And, that's the biggest thing, or things, in that last graf.

We don't have a post no-fly plan. We don't understand Libyan tribalisms all that well. And, beyond the no-fly zone, what forces will we use? Iraq forces for a fourth tour of duty?

Premature to jump to Tiger conclusions?

Bob Harig's story title says that, but, he does anyway.

Between "max-size" baseball Hall of Fame writers and Tiger whores, ESPN sure has "favorite suck-up" writers in abundance.

Anyway, back to Tiger. The fact that he's changing putters again says the title's right and Harig's wrong. Meanwhile, another ESPN writer, Gene Wojciechowski, is touting that Tiger could be peaking for The Masters.

Puhleeze. If Tiger's struggling enough with the flatstick to again make a mid-tourney change, he's not putting well enough for Augusta's greens.

March 13, 2011

P.J. Crowley — reason 1,012 not to vote for Obama

The now-former State Department spokesman has stepped down been fired by President Obama for his comments last week about the conditions of Bradley Manning's detention as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."

Glenn Greenwald has more.

I'll keep an eye on the Internets for Obamiacs to come out of the woodwork to defend him. Because they will.