SocraticGadfly: 7/10/11 - 7/17/11

July 16, 2011

A bubble DECADES in the making

That's the bottom line on today's anemic economic bottom line in America, from Dave Leonhardt.

He cites a variety of statistics to back this up:
The auto industry is on pace to sell 28 percent fewer new vehicles this year than it did 10 years ago — and 10 years ago was 2001, when the country was in recession. Sales of ovens and stoves are on pace to be at their lowest level since 1992. Home sales over the past year have fallen back to their lowest point since the crisis began. And big-ticket items are hardly the only problem.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently published a jarring report on what it calls discretionary service spending, a category that excludes housing, food and health care and includes restaurant meals, entertainment, education and even insurance. Going back decades, such spending had never fallen more than 3 percent per capita in a recession. In this slump, it is down almost 7 percent, and still has not really begun to recover.
And then reminds us of more liberal means that businesses are only, in light of this, acting rationally in not hiring more people:
If you’re looking for one overarching explanation for the still-terrible job market, it is this great consumer bust. Business executives are only rational to hold back on hiring if they do not know when their customers will fully return. Consumers, for their part, are coping with a sharp loss of wealth and an uncertain future (and many have discovered that they don’t need to buy a new car or stove every few years). Both consumers and executives are easily frightened by the latest economic problem, be it rising gas prices or the debt-ceiling impasse.
So, maybe Krugman is right in calling the current times the "Little Depression" now instead of the "Great Recession."

And it may stick around a while, Leonhardt says:
Sure, house and car sales will eventually surpass their old highs, as the economy slowly recovers and the population continues expanding. But consumer spending will not soon return to the growth rates of the 1980s and ’90s. They depended on income people didn’t have.
His solution? Tax cuts, but ones targeted to businesses who hire, and more stimulus, but targeted to industries of the future.

In short, Leonhardt is saying, don't abandon Keynesian ideas, but get smarter about how to use them.

Conservative shilldom doesn't float Faux News stock

Over at Forbes, Peter Cohan has a great column about how it may be time for Fox News parent News Corporation, which is after all a publicly traded corporation, to go beyond dumping Rupert Murdoch flunkies, but to dump the Murdochs.

Why? Because they're bad for business, that's why:
Over the last decade, News Corp’s stock has been in the doldrums. It’s lost 15% of its value since July 14, 2001 while the Dow Jones Industrial average has gained 21%. And that’s not surprising when you consider that News Corp. has been earning way less than its cost of capital. For example, in 2009 its economic value added — after tax operating income compared to its weighted average cost of capital — was negative $9.5 billion. That “improved” to negative $1.1 billion in 2010.

If you are a shareholder, it’s hard to find a reason to celebrate Murdoch’s control over this company.
Cohan even throws out a potential new CEO name: Lou Gerstner, former IBM turnaround artist.

One could argue for media stocks in general to be struggling. But, News Corp. has cable channels, pay cable channels and other media ventures that are immune from the ad plunge of newspapers and network TV.

Its other assets include American Idol, a rugby league, a sports simulation website (fantasy sports to the next level), an Aussie equivalent of Monster or CareerBuilder and part ownership of Hulu. Let's not forget that his publishing side includes HarperCollins and Zondervan as well as all of his newspapers. And, he also has the apolitical FoxSports.

What that means is that Faux News and other ventures are a fucking lead weight.

That said, Cohan's colleague at Forbes, suggests that Murdoch could pre-empt that by taking News Corp. private. He's got a $5 billion buyback plan, apparently to do just that.
This strategy makes sense because Murdoch has clearly never had as his top priority creating value for other shareholders. Far from it . His priority has been the aggrandizement of media power the past 11 years, especially by vastly overpaying for the Wall Street Journal. A massive write-off of over $2 billion was the result. Never you mind; Murdoch controlled the Wall Street Journal.
So, if you're a News Corp. investor, and one who actually, even if a strong conservative, cares about making some money, are you elbowing others aside trying to get Uncle Rupert to buy you out rather than others? Afraid that you'll be stuck with albatross-like stock after it goes private? But, if you bought into it because you believed the myth of Rupert, we liberals are laughing at you, not with you.

A Lou Gerstner would see them for what they are: equivalents of the Washington Examiner.

The Examiner is different, of course, in that it's privately held by at least some of the Moonie family. So, if you're a News Corp. investor, do you really want to continue to fatten the ego and the wallet of a man and family as stupid and intransigent as Sun Myung Moon and offspring?

Obama still slaps left in face - #ElizabethWarren #debtshowdown

There's a whole raft of ways in which he's doing this, and to lead off, we have one that has nothing to do with his ongoing debt showdown sellouts.

To wit, Elizabeth Warren is officially off the table to head the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Judging by the story, Obama wants to appoint some mid-level wonkish type who will be as unoffensive as possible to both Congressional Republicans and his own Wall Street friends.

Part of why Warren isn't getting the job? She refuses to go along with Obama's bankster friends, and their friends inside Team Obama, and continues to oppose a toothless settlement of the apparent mortgage fraud problems that have the housing bubble collapse still unsettled.

But, let's get back to that debt issue, though, shall we?

Greg Sargent blogs on Obama's plea to liberals to sign off on cutting the debt. Why? He continues to throw more and more spending cuts into the mix, none of them for things like defense spending, subsidies to big business, etc., and still gets nothing in return. He's like an even-more-naive Reagan.
Obama’s argument is that progressives won’t be able to make the case to the public for more spending unless the deficit is neutralized as an issue. ... Some liberals will respond that this risks ceding the short term argument in advance, with the result that the public never gets to hear the case for running deficits in a bad economy and dealing with them later.
Exactly. Also given the fact that Obama has done little to sell the public on the idea that much of the current high deficit level is not structural but is recession-related tax revenue declines (and, given Obama's increasingly neoconservative turn, one suspects this is deliberate), why should "we" trust him?

Joan Walsh, a reliable semi-Obamaic, chides Obama for believing that slashing now will mean spending more later, citing the example of that great neolib, William Jefferson Clinton.
For a guy whose presidential candidacy was greatly defined by his not being a Clinton, Obama is clearly following the Bill Clinton playbook. Clinton spent his entire political career trying to kill right-wing stereotypes about "big spending" liberals. Not only did he balance the budget to eliminate Ronald Reagan's deficit, he endorsed and enacted a welfare reform plan largely crafted by Republicans. Both bold decisions were supposed to show that Democrats could be trusted to tame the excesses of the Great Society, and usher in an era of smart, pragmatic, humane government that combined private sector discipline with New Deal values. If Clinton could get the issues of welfare and bloated government "off the table," he believed, he could set the table for a progressive agenda.

Had Clinton been right about that, he would have been able to say: “Our fiscal house is in order. ...

Instead, the conciliating Clinton met increasingly savage political opposition ... (a)nd right now, Republicans in Congress are on the verge of sending us back to the 19th. To the extent that Clinton was able to turn back his Republican foes ... and win re-election in 1996, it wasn't because he compromised, but because he had the winds of the economy at his back. (You can argue Clinton's deficit-cutting helped improve the economy, but it certainly didn't turn it around.)

So there is no reason to believe that "getting our fiscal house in order" would vanquish Obama's political enemies and create a mandate for the kind of government spending that would "win the future."
Other than still, even with her caveats, perhaps being too charitable by half to Clinton, Walsh makes valid points re Dear Leader.

Andrew Leonard, meanwhile, notes that even as discussion numbers tighten, Obama will still chase after GOP debt ponies.

Robert Reich, meanwhile, tells Obama to learn something else from Clinton, namely, after the debt showdown, it will still be about the economy, stupid.

July 15, 2011

Obama's war sure to widen

With the U.S. and other major nations officially extending diplomatic recognition to rebels in Libya, the war there ought to widen, extend longer, etc.

But, but, but ... this Congress-free bout of adventurism is being led by Dear Leader, Barack Obama, and has the official imprimatur of the UN. So, Juan Cole should be happy.

And, here's the basics that both Juan and Dear Leader should have considered pre-fighting, and apparently have magically changed in some people's minds, though, I doubt, in reality:
For weeks, U.S. officials have stopped short of full diplomatic recognition even as they inched up support for the Libyan rebels’ cause. The main concern was over how capably and inclusively the rebel leaders would govern, said a senior U.S. state department official who was not authorized to speak by name. ...

The worry among U.S. and other foreign powers was that after Gaddafi falls, the oil-rich country could become embroiled in tribal conflicts or ethnic tensions. A British-led group planning for post-Gaddafi Libya is recommending that the Libyan army be left intact to avoid the tactical mistake made after the Iraq war, when U.S.-led forces dismantled Saddam Hussein’s army.
Wild card: Since he's got nothing to lose now, and Beijing wasn't one of the "recognizers," what's to stop Muammar Gadhafi from making a deal with Hu Jintao? Both China and Russia declined to attend the "recognition" meeting, so this isn't a totally unrealistic situation. China would, of course, walk the Arab League tightrope carefully.

More liberal Obama enablers

Oh, they're going to protest his threatened social service budget cuts, sellouts to the GOP, etc.

But, showing that they've learned the "compromise away the compromise in advance" idea from Dear Leader, they're still going to vote for him:
A liberal group upset over potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security delivered pledges Friday to President Barack Obama's national campaign headquarters threatening to pull its support.

About a dozen people representing the Progressive Change Campaign Committee delivered what they said were 200,000 pledges from people who will refuse to donate or volunteer for Obama's re-election campaign if he cuts the entitlement programs.

"It's not a question of who they're going to support for president, they're going to vote for Barack Obama. It's a question of where their time and money is going to go," spokesman T. Neil Sroka said.
And, I use "enabler" just like the spouse/lover of an alcoholic is an "enabler." Threatening to cut off your donations? They're a pittance of Dear Leader's proposed billion-dollar campaign. Your volunteering time? Enough Obama fear-mongering will probably bring most of you back to do that, too.

One #HarryReid national debt clusterfuck coming right up!

The Washington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the mastermind behind what could be just such a clusterfuck.

He wants to combine elements of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's "let's punt the debt decisions off to Obama in 2012" idea with a Congressional national debt commission, similar to the military base closures commission of the 1990s. Combine that with Dems like Reid still trying to out-deficit-hawk some GOPers, and we get this trifecta.

First, the sign-off on McConnell's plan:
Reid confirmed that discussions are focused on what McConnell has called “Plan B”: an elaborate legal framework to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion that would place the entire political burden for the unpopular move on Obama.
Followed by Dems wanting more spending cuts:
Unveiled earlier this week, McConnell’s plan included no mechanism to force the sharp spending cuts that Republicans have demanded in exchange for voting to lift the debt limit. But in a sign of the unusual political times, Democrats said they were reluctant to go along with that proposal and are pressing to add roughly $1.5 trillion in cuts to government agencies to the measure.
Topped by the debt commission:
Talks were also underway over a plan to appoint 12 lawmakers from both parties to draft a long-term framework to stabilize the national debt. The new debt committee would be given a deadline, and its recommendations would be fast-tracked to a vote in the House and Senate without amendment, similar to the process used to close military bases.

Late Thursday, McConnell told a radio interviewer that the new debt-reduction panel would “probably be part of the bill” and that it would likely be asked to issue its report by the end of the year.
Let's unpackage this whole craptacular bag.

First, "pulling a McConnell." Are Senate Dems that worried about getting blamed for a default that they'll throw Obama under the bus? The sight of Obama and Reid shadow-boxing each other politically would have a certain attractiveness, were the stakes not so high.

Second, besides the uncuttable, sacrosanct Department of Defense not being on the table, what IS on the table?

Third, we've already seen Obama's Catfood Commission. Reid's Denture Commission, or whatever cynical name we want to give to it, will surely be worse, and more politicized. Note that McConnell said it should report back by the end of the year, just in time for political fireworks.

I'll be waiting for the Serious People in the DC Village and the NYC adjunct to applaud this.

July 14, 2011

#Grizzly scat isn't the only scat in #Yellowstone

With the eXXXon oil spill on the Yellowstone River north of Yellowstone National Park, another scat, besides that of grizzlies, is busy in the area. SCAT, or Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Teams, are busy monitoring the river for oil spillage signs.

The story notes that the pipeline actually originates in Wyoming. I hope that doesn't mean there's a high possibility of leaks further "upstream" on the pipeline.

#JuanCole: Have fun suing Dear Leader Obama

OK, here's the latest in the allegations that the CIA was trying to dig up dirt on liberalish blogger Juan Cole.

Cole is now suing the FBI and CIA for any records they may have of snooping on him.

I agree that, IF this happened, it's a matter of concern.

Of course, the ex-spook making that claim has a book coming out, so he may not be totally trustworthy. (Glenn Carle's wide-eyed "what, is this really the case" naivete in the interview seems a bit over the top.) Also, Cole has a reputation for sometimes ... err ... confabulating (sadly, a blog that used to have a post making that claim is reportedly now "unavailable," so even if there was snooping, it may not be as bad as he claims.

And, there's the irony of:
A. This alleged upstanding civil libertarian coming from a possibly spookish family background himself (his dad did two tours in the Army Signals Corps; based on his location, he may have been doing that for the National Security Agency), and
B. Him censoring comments on his own blog, as I personally know.

There's then the irony of Cole unashamedly supporting the warmongering of our current president after claiming that BushCo might have sicced the CIA on him because of his skeptical approach to the Iraq War.

Really? Someone far harsher than you ... like Chris Hedges ... has never reported CIA snooping problems.

Beyond that, note his lack of skepticism toward our Peace Prize Prez's warmongering.
I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed.
Note the lack of skepticism about the Libyan rebels, sad lack of skepticism.

Besides, Messr. Cole, the final irony is that Dear Leader wants to look forward, not backward.

In fact, I'm cynical enough to wonder if Cole has a second book coming out himself.

Bonds vs Clemens in court: Which case will have more govt idiocy?

I thought federal prosecutors did less than a stellar job in Barry Bonds' steroid-use related trial. But, given that, in the second day of the Roger Clemens trial for perjury in his Congressional testimony about steroids, this isn't even close.

Getting a mistrial on prosecutorial misconduct for not once, but twice, violating the judge's order not to introduce anything related to Andy Pettitte's wife testimony to Congress? After Judge Reggie Walton said any of her testimony was inadmissible?

That all said, it raises this question: Does the government think it will be that hard to win without Laura Pettitte' testimony?

Apparently so, Les Carpenter ventures:
The jury, made up of 10 women and two men, does not seem to be knowledgeable about baseball. Many said they knew little about the game in jury selection and therefore probably know little about Pettitte. It has long been believed in baseball circles that the deeply religious Pettitte would be a brilliant witness against his friend and former teammate Clemens because he is considered so trustworthy. But a jury that does not know Pettitte wouldn’t be as swayed by his words. The government needed to bolster Pettitte’s credibility as much as it could.
But, if the case is really that thin, shouldn't it be dropped like a hot potato? Is there Congressional pressure to "see it out"?

Joey Dauben, nutbar, profiled

Really, Dallas Observer? You had THIS slow of a week? Alt-media becoming tabloidy in a bad sense.

This Joey Dauben profile does have nuggets of truth. Dauben, without admitting civil guilt, admits he was cybersquatting on misspelled URLs, and that there were deep pockets backing him up.

(That said, per other lies Dauben has told in his pre-incarceration career, none of those pockets were likely that deep, or, if they were, they were only occasionally deep when their own griftings hit oil instead of dry wells.)

Oh, and here's a great one, given that Mr. Dauben is nowhere near gay-friendly:
And once, during an ill-fated Congressional bid, Dauben offered to take supporters on a date to the Galaxy Drive-In for a $25 donation. ("It was 98 percent gay men who responded to the ad," he says.)
They probably backed off again, and quickly.

Here's another truth:
"I love him to death, I feel like he could've been a son of mine," (Ellis County Press publisher Charlie) Hatfield says. "He used to know how to do it, but he chose to go another path." He calls Dauben's current work "libelous trash."

Of course, both of them are wingnuts, and ECP at least is borderline racist.

That said, per page 5 of the story, I seriously doubt Dauben will shut down his papers if a tenuous connection to the Amber Hagerman disappearance doesn't pan out.

(Update, Oct. 24, 2021: As for finding Amber Hagerman's killer? Hell, Dauben couldn't find Amber Guyger if she were still in Botham Jean's apartment with Jim Schutze claiming she was innocent. As of this year, it's been 25 years, and since Arlington PD has said it has DNA evidence, it's clear Dauben had no such identification. It would also be both disgusting, and typical of Dauben, if he preyed on hopes of any Hagerman family members and relatives.)

For people who don't know Dauben, this also is true:

"I don't personally feel like he's looking out for the city as much as he's basically trying to sell his wares," says Palmer City Administrator Doug Young, another man who turns up frequently on Dauben's site.

Young says he tried correcting Dauben when he got things wrong the first few years, but quickly learned it wasn't much use. "Whatever I say, Joey tends to twist to fit his own needs," Young says. "He prints what he wants, he handles what he wants. I'm not gonna try to post a correction."
From my own experience, I know that Dauben's never let the truth stand in the way of a slanted story.

Finally, in his run for mayor of little-bitty Palmer, Texas, his paranoia and megalomania meet:
As the polls near closing time, Dauben's team spills out of a pair of cars and joins him in the street. Dauben leans in and whispers that they're carrying "protection" around town. Asked what kind of danger they're worried about, he says, "Hits out on my life." But he isn't too concerned. "I don't think they're willing to do that and vindicate everything I've ever done," he says.
Turns out Dauben had more subscribers to his Palmer "newspaper" than he got votes.

And, sadly, I Facebook-friended him on tenuous hopes of getting back to Dallas.

Update, Jan. 18, 2020: Weirdly, per the new picture above, replacing a link bust, I didn't realize that D Magazine, with piece written by Mike Orren of then-independent Pegasus News, had also fellated Dauben.

Update, March 16, 2013: I had a new light bulb pop on tonight. Joey Dauben reminds me of a slightly less mature James O'Keefe of Breitbart fame, detailed here in all his sordidness. 

Update 2, July 19, 2017: How did Dauben know that a mayor of tiny little Henderson County burg Seven Points, way away from Ellis County, was gay unless Dauben has a gay grapevine or good gay gaydar?

And, why did you feel compelled to say "I'm not gay"? Even as, in the original Observer piece, you said that 98 percent of responses to a "date Joey" ad were from gay men? Gaydar isn't everything but it is sometimes something. (A gay grapevine is even more "something.")

And why does David Webb, writing for the Dallas Voice and other gay mags, continue to insist you're not gay, Joey? Is it image protection?

Joey, you're in prison because of repression and denial, IMO.


Update, Aug. 22, 2021: Besides "Sunflower" and his other groupies who trailed him, at the Ellis County Observer, Dauben had as one of his flunkies a guy named Ali Akbar, who also allegedly was working on the Texas effort for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Today, you know him as "Stop the Steal" thief Ali Alexander. Dauben, per this piece, back then thought Akbar (already then a convicted felon) was shady as shit, claiming that Akbar/Alexander had talked back then of ways to rig an elelection. And, if Joey Dauben thought that ...

Update, April 17, 2023: Akbar/Alexander now accused of soliciting "dick pics" from followers of Nick Fuentes. Says he's been "battling" same-sex attraction. Uses "so gay" as a slur. Statement, via Twitter, claims he's done nothing illegal. Other than possibly breaking the law if any of these were of minors (and hence highly illegal), sounds like he needs to stop battling and start accepting being bisexual. Plus, it's all about the money. Milo Yiannopoulos (THAT Milo) ratted on him after he and Fuentes cut him out of a "potentially lucrative" position with Kanye West's presidential run. (Was this 2020, or is he looking at another in 2024? YE gads.) And, rats like Marjorie Taylor Greene are trying to dissociate from both.

July 13, 2011

#Friedman hits a new low in offensive-stupid with jobs

Teapot Tommy Friedman, aka My Head is Flat, never ceases to surprise me at the new ways in which he can simply be obtuse about the real world.

Now, it's about the idea, and even more, the naive acceptance of its likelihood of success, about how each of us needs to become a lifelong one-person entrepreneur in the business world.

Here's Teapot Tommy, full agog at the latest stimulation to his semi-wet brain:
Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today’s hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don’t fulfill those criteria.
OK, let's unpack his opening presuppositions and show what's wrong with them.
1. Do CEOs ever get asked this by their boards, at least without snowing the said boards on their multimillion-dollar value? Nope.
2. Does Friedman even understand ideas of business ethics, ethical societal behavior and related issues? No.
3. Does Friedman understand that for every boss open to innovation, there's 10 that aren't and 10 others who say they are but are more than willing to pass the buck if anything fails? Again, no.
4. Does Friedman ask how successful companies might also help employees deal with change? Nope.

Teapot Tommy then blithely heads down the road:
LinkedIn founder Reid Garrett ... Hoffman says, that means ditching a grand life plan. Entrepreneurs don’t write a 100-page business plan and execute it one time; they’re always experimenting and adapting based on what they learn.
Ahh, the CEO of a vastly overvalued Internet company, one as lazy as Microsoft about not weeding out spam now that he seems to have it "made in the shade," is full of ideas for the average Joe/Jane.

Hoffman won't tell us, and Friedman either won't tell us or is even more ignorant than usual, that for people who aren't the engineers in Silicon Valley, working there is an unethical anti-union, anti-labor hellhole.

So, with that background in mind, what Hoffman is saying is that YOU need to reinvent yourself without any aid from a company, or any government aid (unlike Export-Import Bank aid, etc.) and, if you don't, you're simply Social Darwinist road kill.

Hoffman then gets insulting:
Hoffman ... has a book coming out after New Year called “The Start-Up of You,” co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Its subtitle could easily be: “Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old midcareer professional! Here’s how you build your career today.”

Hoffman adds: “You can’t just say, ‘I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.’ ” You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then “find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it’s differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us.”
First, for those of us not 21 or 22 with helicopter moms, we didn't grow up believing this.

Second, what if you're already at Hoffman's paradise and booted out because it's cheaper to outsource to India? Well, per Hoffman, if you don't not only reinvent yourself, but reinvent yourself to work for less than that Indian, you're Social Darwinist road kill.

Third, the financial meltdown showed us nobody can guess perfectly "which industry is working."

Beyond that, Teapot Tommy ignores, overlooks or is ignorant of the countless unemployed already trying to reinvent themselves as self-employed, and .... sadly falling short.

Friedman hit a new low not just in lack of smarts but lack of morals. I'd like to see the NYT fire him and let him try to reinvent himself.

July 12, 2011

Roger Cohen writes a clunker defending Murdoch

Roger Cohen is probably, after Paul Krugman, my favorite NY Times columnist. He's usually understated and sensible, especially on foreign affairs issues.

But, then, he wrote this paean to Rupert Murdoch saving newspapers.
If you add everything up, he’s been good for newspapers over the past several decades, keeping them alive and vigorous and noisy and relevant. Without him, the British newspaper industry might have disappeared entirely.

First, Murdoch doesn't really publish "newspapers." If he does occasionally have legitimate news, even then, he overhypes it beyond reality.

Cohen admits that the hacking is illegal, and that Murdoch promotes an anti-science agenda on global warming, though he refuses to call a spade a spade. But, he then says:
So why do I still admire the guy? The first reason is his evident loathing for elites, for cozy establishments, for cartels, for what he’s called “strangulated English accents.”
Uhh, Roger, maybe you too have spent too much time inside MSM circles? Plenty of legitimate news outlets, especially on the left, have "loathing for elites, for cozy establishments, for cartels" while still having journalistic integrity.

Second, his attempt to take over BSkyB shows that he actually LOVES "cozy establishments and cartels."

Cohen goes on:
The second thing I admire is the visionary, risk-taking determination that has placed him ahead of the game as the media business has been transformed through globalization and digitization
Again, wrong. It's not risk-taking when you have politicians in your pocket. Good fucking doorknob, the column gets worse.

And worse:
Overall, the British media scene without Murdoch would be pretty impoverished. His breaking of the unions at Wapping in 1986 was decisive for the vitality of newspapering.
Up to this point, I had thought Roger Cohen was a liberal. Boy, I'm going to have to rethink anything he writes on economic policy, etc.

July 11, 2011

Murdoch spied on the Queen?

WTF? I was dumbfounded enough when I heard News of the World had snooped on then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But, spying on Queen Elizabeth II? Murdoch, though now an American citizen, was born in a Commonwealth nation. He knows this crosses new lines.
His reporters were also accused of paying Queen Elizabeth II's bodyguards for secret information about the monarch, potentially jeopardizing her safety. ...

London's Evening Standard newspaper reported that corrupt royal protection officers sold personal details about Queen Elizabeth II — including phone numbers and tips about her movements and staff — to journalists working for the Murdoch tabloid News of the World, raising questions over a breach in national security.
And, raising new questions about just how low in the unethical gutter Murdoch will stoop. The story notes he's arrived in Britain to try to perform fire control. I'm surprised he didn't cut his staff off, stay in America, and let them sink or swiom on their own.

That said, there may be a silver lining here in the U.S.:
Legal experts said Monday it is possible Murdoch's U.S. companies might face legal actions because of the shady practices at the News of the World, his now defunct British tabloid. In the U.S., Murdoch owns Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, among other holdings.

They said Murdoch's News Corp. might be liable to criminal prosecution under the 1977 Corrupt Foreign Practices Act, a broad act designed to prosecute executives who bribe foreign officials in exchange for large contracts.
But, because Obama's a suck-up who's "looking forward," this is unlikely. And, should such case be appealed to the Supreme Court ... how many of its members who take money from people with ties to Murdoch would recuse themselves?

Still, we can dream, can't we?

Meanwhile, how much more balls-less will British Deputy Prime Minister/Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg be? How much more balls-less will the party be, rather than break coalition with the Conservatives and Murdoch toady David Cameron? If not over this, it will be over nothing.

July 10, 2011

Douthat "gets" Obama - while Obamiacs still don't

Ross Douthat knows what true progressives like me know: Obama WANTS a conservative budget/debt deal.
The not-so-secret secret is that the White House has given ground on purpose. Just as Republicans want to use the debt ceiling to make the president live with bigger spending cuts than he would otherwise support, Obama’s political team wants to use the leverage provided by those cra-a-a-zy Tea Partiers to make Democrats live with bigger spending cuts than they normally would support.

Why? Because the more conservative-seeming the final deal, the better for the president’s re-election effort.
Nothing truer.

At the same time, he doesn't get Obama or the GOP, assuming that both will agree to let the Bush Obama tax cuts expire in the future:
If Obama gains a second term, Congressional Republicans will have to choose between a deal that lets the top rate go back to 39 percent (a $700 billion tax increase over 10 years) or no deal at all (a $3.8 trillion tax increase). Obviously, this dilemma won’t exist if President Mitt Romney occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But Obama’s re-election is the more likely scenario, meaning that any deal struck this summer comes with a very large asterisk attached: *Includes tax increases to be named later.
Nothing could be falser.

Fusion power: Stop me if you've heard this before

Stewart C. Prager, the director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a Department of Energy national laboratory, is giving us the old song-and-dance about how peaceful nuclear fusion power is just around the corner. He's also probably got ulterior motives for this, which I'll address at the end.

He says:
Seven partners — the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States — have teamed up on an experiment to produce 500 million watts of fusion power for 500 seconds and longer by 2020, demonstrating key scientific and engineering aspects of fusion at the scale of a reactor.

However, even though the United States is a contributor to this experiment, known as ITER, it has yet to commit to the full program needed to develop a domestic fusion reactor to produce electricity for the American power grid. Meanwhile other nations are moving forward to implement fusion as a key ingredient of their energy security.

Indeed, fusion research facilities more modern than anything in the United States are either under construction or operating in China, Germany, Japan and South Korea. The will and enthusiasm of governments in Asia to fill their energy needs with fusion, as soon as possible, is nearly palpable.

What has been lacking in the United States is the political and economic will. We need serious public investment to develop materials that can withstand the harsh fusion environment, sustain hot plasma indefinitely and integrate all these features in an experimental facility to produce continuous fusion power.

This won’t be cheap. A rough estimate is that it would take $30 billion and 20 years to go from the current state of research to the first working fusion reactor. But put in perspective, that sum is equal to about a week of domestic energy consumption, or about 2 percent of the annual energy expenditure of $1.5 trillion.

Fusion used to be an energy source for my generation’s grandchildren; now, plans across the world call for a demonstration power plant in about 20 years.
First, just because other countries are sinking more money into fusion than the U.S. doesn't guarantee they're right.

Second, his time/money estimates are what we've always heard from fusion folks, just like AI ones. There's no guarantee they're close to true; "rough estimate" is probably an understatement.

Third, desal for drinking water is pricey enough, and has environmental consequences of its own right now.

The ulterior motive? Prager works for DOE lab.

Given that the reality of the last space shuttle flight, and a hiatus of at least a few years in U.S. manned space flight is settling on on the collective minds of the scientific world, and given the hard-nosed debt talks in DC, etc., well ...

Expect more op-eds from this from more managers/administrators of federal labs, research centers, etc., whether in fusion, complemenary medicine pseudomedicine, nanotech or whatever.

Look at NASA's fake exobiology arsenic PR smokescreen earlier this year. We probably ain't seen nothing yet.