Saturday, December 31, 2011

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels shows how to be vulnerable to a scandal

In my previous post about Troy, I discussed the rejection of federal funding for the Transit Center. There was something else in the report from the New York Times I quoted.
The transit fight is not Mayor Daniels’s first brush with controversy. Earlier this month, it was revealed that she posted a message to her Facebook page last June, after New York State approved same-sex marriage, stating, “I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.” In an interview, she said she regretted the online comment.
This quote plays right into a narrative that opponents of the Tea Party in general and Janice Daniels in particular already have for Tea Party candidates. In fact, combined with the rejection of the money for the transit center, it satisfies many of Nate Silver's criteria for a good political scandal. Let me walk through Nate's questions and their answers for these two outrages.

2011 set rainfall records in Detroit, Michigan, and Ohio

This has been a wild year for weather, not only here in Metro Detroit, but elsewhere in Michigan, our neighboring state of Ohio, and the nation as a whole. Before I talk about this year's local weather as recorded in this blog, I'll give all of you a national perspective first, then focus on the local and regional weather stories for the year.

Earlier this week, Grist included the following paragraph in Politics blocks scientists from explaining why this year’s weather was record bad.
A typical year in the U.S. includes three to four extreme weather events that do more than $1 billion in damage, but 2011 featured 12 of them. Add in the slightly-less-expensive extreme weather we experienced, and the total price tag is north of $50 billion.
They linked to a New York Times article, "
Harsh Political Reality Slows Climate Studies Despite Extreme Year," which filled in some of the details.
“I’ve been a meteorologist 30 years and never seen a year that comes close to matching 2011 for the number of astounding, extreme weather events,” Jeffrey Masters, a co-founder of the popular Web site Weather Underground, said last month. “Looking back in the historical record, which goes back to the late 1800s, I can’t find anything that compares, either.”

Many of the individual events in 2011 do have precedents in the historical record. And the nation’s climate has featured other concentrated periods of extreme weather, including severe cold snaps in the early 20th century and devastating droughts and heat waves in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.

But it is unusual, if not unprecedented, for so many extremes to occur in such a short span. The calamities in 2011 included wildfires that scorched millions of acres, extreme flooding in the Upper Midwest and the Mississippi River Valley and heat waves that shattered records in many parts of the country. Abroad, massive floods inundated Australia, the Philippines and large parts of Southeast Asia.
As you can see from my coverage of local weather, metro Detroit had a pretty intense year.

What you doing New Year's Eve?

That's the question Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ask.




The answer won't be watching the ball drop in Royal Oak. That event has been canceled. Take it away WXYZ on YouTube.




"Last year, Saab Motors of North America was their co-sponsor." Since Saab is no more, I'm not surprised that there is no ball drop. Just the same, I'm bummed, as I've been working in Oakland County for 15 years and living here for almost two, and I never even heard of this event until now, when it is not happening.

There are other New Year's events, though. Detroit is dropping a giant lit "D" on Campus Martius. Yes, really.




That's cool, but I'm not going there, either. Instead, I'll be at home with my wife watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gas prices rising in metro Detroit both good news and bad news

It's been three months since I last blogged about gas prices here. I guess that's what happens when they drop steadily and thus are generally not news.* Now that they are rising, they're news again.




Yes, it's a classic case of good news, bad news. The good news is that the economy is recovering, which is exactly what it should be doing when energy prices drop. That means demand is up, so prices will rise. As long as they're below $3.50/gallon, we should be OK. In fact, if the economy recovers enough, then prices could go up to just below $4.00/gallon and the economy will still grow.

The bad news is that we could have another supply shock from the Middle East, this time from Iran. Take it away Dan Amira of New York Magazine.
We're not saying we're definitely going to war with Iran soon. But maybe start preparing yourself mentally, just in case, like when you sense something scary is about to happen in a horror film. For two days in a row now, Iran has threatened to use its military to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz — a shipping route through which one-sixth of the world's oil passes as it leaves the Persian Gulf — if the United States follows through on new sanctions that recently passed in Congress. The U.S. Navy responded today that "any disruption will not be tolerated." Great.
What I've been afraid of for the past four years would be that the United States would strike pre-emptively at Iran to take out their nuclear program. That hasn't happened. Instead, my worry now is that Iran will do something else to bait the U.S. and others into war. It looks like they're threatening to do just that. This action would run afoul of the Carter Doctrine as extended by Ronald Reagan, which has been the basis of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf for more than 30 years.
Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan, extended the policy in October 1981 with what is sometimes called the "Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine", which proclaimed that the United States would intervene to protect Saudi Arabia, whose security was threatened after the outbreak of the Iran–Iraq War. Thus, while the Carter Doctrine warned away outside forces from the region, the Reagan Corollary pledged to secure internal stability.
Should Iran actually follow through with this, especially before they succeed in building nuclear weapons, there will be war and the price of gas will go to $5.00/gallon. I don't know if Iran is so reckless as to invite the U.S., EU, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and who knows who else to beat up on them. That written, stranger things have happened, such as Manuel Noriega waving a machete on Panamanian television in 1989 and declaring that a state of war existed with the United States. That didn't work out too well for him.

*In an example of the exception proving the rule, I was interviewed by one of the TV stations in Bakersfield while I was filling up my car while visiting my then-girlfriend in early 1983 and asked about the price of gas, which had fallen to the lowest level in five years. I told them that as a consumer, I was happy about the low price of gas, but that I was no longer working because of the low price of oil. I told my girlfriend to watch the local news that night, as I would be out of town. Sure enough, my interview got on the air, as my soundbite gave them exactly the bad news angle they were looking for.

Next Media Animation on Canada leaving the Kyoto Protocol, plus a Rick Perry joke

Over at Daily Kos, I posted the following on December 10th as the headline and top story for my diary that night.

Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Climate deal reached in Durban! edition)
This week's featured story, which is breaking news, comes from Reuters.

U.N. climate talks seal legal pact on global warming
...
U.N. climate change talks agreed on a pact on Sunday that for the first time would force all the biggest polluters to take action to slow the pace of global changing.

The deal follows years of failed attempts to impose legally-binding, international cuts on emerging giants, such as China and India.

The developed world had already accepted formal targets under a first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out at the end of next year, although the United States had never ratified its commitment.

After days of emotional debate, the chairwoman of the United Nations climate talks urged delegates to approve four packages, which have legal force.
Now, that's a great Holiday present for the environment!
Looks like my celebration was premature, as a couple days later, Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. I'll let Next Media Animation tell the story.



Canada is withdrawing from the Kyoto Protoco on climate change, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday, abandoning its 1997 commitment to cut emissions 6% below 1990 levels by 2102 and cementing the transformation of the country's image as a global leader in the fight against climate change into what critics are calling a "climate renegade."

By 2009 Canada's emissions were 17 percent above 1990 levels. Canada faced nearly $14 billion in penalties for failing to reduce greenhouse emissions if it had remained a signatory to the Kyoto accord.

The Kyoto Protocol was signed by the Liberal Party, and Canada's current Conservative government has made it clear since 2006 that it had no intention of honoring the Kyoto pact, in part because it does not cover major emitters of greenhouse gases such as the US and China.
Remember what I wrote in Next Media Animation on the Keystone XL pipeline?
I've decided that protesting the concept of the Keystone XL pipeline is futile to the point of being less than useless, as the Canadians would just sell the oil to the Chinese, something the video points out. Therefore, opposing the pipeline as a way of slowing down the exploitation of one of the most carbon dioxide emitting ways of getting oil out of the ground is a waste of time. It's going to be extracted one way or another and opposing the pipeline means that China will benefit from it instead of the U.S. Meanwhile, the global commons will still suffer.
I wrote that before the Canadian decision to abandon Kyoto, which means I shouldn't have been surprised with the decision. What Canada did was perfectly consistent with what I wrote back in November. They're bound and determined to extract the oil out of the Alberta tar sands and to Hell with the rest of the planet.

Speaking of "to Hell with the rest of the planet," Rick Perry chimed in on Keystone XL.
He was at it again Wednesday, talking about the need to build the Keystone Xl pipeline that would link Canada’s oil sands development in Alberta with the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Perry told a campaign stop in Clarinda, Iowa.

Does he not know that Canada is a sovereign country?
A friend of mine posted that quote on his Facebook wall as evidence that Rick Perry is that stupid. I agreed.
Not only is Perry dumb, but he's trying to use "foreign" as a dog whistle. Canada may be another country, but it's not "foreign" in the same way that Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria, Indonesia, or Saudi Arabia are.
My friend thought that I was giving Perry too much credit. I decided to agree, and left the conversation with a joke, which I later tweeted.
Yeah, Perry really is Bush without the brains.
...
A zombie is walking along the street in Austin, moaning "Brains." It sees Rick Perry and turns around.
It turns out that's not a completely original joke.




However, it is the first time it's been applied to Rick Perry, or the other GOP candidates, as far as Google and I can tell. Hey, I'm an environmentalist, I recycle.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Since I'm in a Star Wars mood lately

I've been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic this week and posting about it to my LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, I've been looking for an excuse to post a Star Wars entry that is still on-topic for this blog. Yesterday evening, I stumbled across not one, but two items that fit the bill.

First, from The Bad, the Ugly, and the Irrelevant: The 2012 GOP pretenders on Facebook comes this macro.





Next, Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of The Atlantic's star political bloggers, is playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Yes, really.




Return of the Jedi

So how are we feeling about Star Wars: The Old Republic? I just finished installing and patching this morning. I played around with some character creation, but haven't a chance to do much else. But even in doing that little bit, I realized how dated WoW's graphics really are. I suppose that's a good thing in some ways--WoW can run on almost game PC, at this point.

Either way, I'd love to have a new game on my list. I'm a little pissed about WoW actually adding the panderan. It just feels like more comic relief.
If I hadn't already been a fan of Coates, I would be now. Also, read the comments. They're actually very informative.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Next Media Animation thinks low birth rates in the U.S. and China aren't all good

During the past month or so, Next Media Animation gave their take on falling birthrates in the U.S. and China along with their unintended consequences. Since I haven't been writing and posting Silly Sustainability Saturday entries lately,* I haven't been including these reports regularly in my entries. Time to make up for my inattention.

First up, Economy is the best form of birth control, which makes light of the situation in the U.S.



US birth rates have been falling ever since the recession started, and studies show that this year they've fallen even more! In 2007, there were over 4.3 million babies born, the most ever. It's supposed to go up every year. But now it's down to 4 million. This year, young women from their teens to early 20s have the lowest birth rate ever!

Modern women have certain goals and dreams they want to experience before having kids, so they're having kids later in life. But these days, they just want to keep their jobs and be able to pay for gas! And if you have any fear of losing your job, you wouldn't try to get pregnant at a time you could lose your health insurance! The number of vasectomies has also gone up in the last few years! Why keep paying for condoms or pills if you know you don't want more kids?

You may think low birth rate is good, for population control. But down the line, it could actually be harmful. In the near future we will see more and more of the "4-2-1 problem". You have four grandparents, two parents and one child, and in countries where people are expected to take care of their old folks, it's a lot of responsibility! But either way, if old folks don't have retirement money or savings, the responsibility goes to the government and taxpayers. Careful, or you could end up like Taiwan, where they're trying to bribe people into making babies!
Whereas the above video was only secondarily about the unintended consequences, the next is all about the externalities of China's One Child policy. I present to you "No Girls Born" in China anymore.



We have a country-style song for you today, about one of the consequences of China's one-child policy: a massive gender imbalance in the country.

The Chinese government imposed the one-child policy in 1979. It has prevented 400 million births and allowed China to limit its population growth much faster than most developing countries.

But the one-child policy has also resulted in gender-selective abortions and female infanticide that have distorted the ratio of male to female births, with 118.1 boys currently born for every 100 girls. The natural ratio of boys to girls at birth is 1.05:1, according to UN figures.
Lyrics at the link.

As for the consequences of the gender imbalance on the rest of the world, I used to fear war, as that was one way to eliminate excess young males from a population. I'm not so sure about that anymore. China seems more interested in buying the world instead of conquering it. Instead, I expect that China will start importing brides from poorer Asian countries. That would be one way of paying tribute to The Middle Kingdom!

*One of my New Year's resolutions is to resume Silly Sustainability Saturday posts. I can start a day early on New Year's Eve, which is this Saturday.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rachel Maddow on the Emergency Manager Law



I'll let Michigan Rising, formerly Recall Rick Snyder, describe this for me.
Democracy discarded in Michigan in 2011

Rachel Maddow looks back on 2011's most politically radical development, the complete negation of democracy by Michigan governor Rick Snyder who replaced local governments with appointed "emergency managers."
Remember what I wrote back in April? "The solutions devised here will be exported, including the bad ones."
Whatever Detroit devises as the solutions for North America's problems will be exported to the rest of the continent.
This includes the bad ideas--and does Michigan (not Detroit, but Detroit Public Schools have been where the idea has undergone proof of concept) ever have a bad idea for you.
...
This is why what happens here matters, and why good ideas that start here have to be encouraged and bad ideas that start here have to be opposed. Both kinds of ideas will spread, and any bad idea that takes root here could be very dangerous.
Michigan Forward has an entire page devoted to the opposition to the Emergency Financial Manager Law (Public Act 4), including a list of links to sign up volunteers and find places to sign the petition to get the repeal on the ballot.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Troy's City Council votes down transit center

From WXYZ on YouTube.




Troy transit vote turned down by City Council 12/20


This was a big enough deal that it got picked up by the New York Times.

Michigan City Turns Down Millions of Dollars, Saying Federal Money Is Not Free
In what could be a new high water mark of anti-Washington sentiment, the city of Troy, Mich., is rejecting a long-planned transportation center whose construction would have been fully financed with federal stimulus money.

The terminal, which would help Troy become a transportation node on an upgraded Detroit-to-Chicago Amtrak line, was hailed by supporters as a way to create jobs and to spur economic development. But federal money is federal money, so with the urging of the new mayor, who helped found the local Tea Party chapter, the City Council cast a 4-to-3 vote this week against granting a crucial contract, sending the project into limbo.

“There’s nothing free about government money,” Mayor Janice Daniels said in an interview. “It’s never free, and it’s crippling our way of life.”
...
Taking Tea Party reasoning to the local level has outraged supporters of the transit center, which has been in the works for a decade. Michele Hodges, the president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, which supports the transit project, said that her organization “will be a pit bull for what’s best for this community.”

David A. Kotwicki, a local lawyer, noted that members of Congress might talk tough on spending, but that they still bring projects home to their districts. The vote against the transit center, he said, looks like “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
No kidding. The rejection of the transit center is already undermining business confidence in Troy.
On Tuesday, an official of Magna International, a global automotive supplier based in Canada whose American headquarters are in Troy, expressed frustration with the City Council vote in a private e-mail to Ms. Hodges and others that was posted to a blog that favors the transit center.

“I am drafting a memo to all Magna group presidents and our Magna corporate executives strongly recommending that Magna International no longer consider the City of Troy for future site considerations, expansions or new job creation,” wrote Frank W. Ervin III, the company’s manager of government affairs. “I have also recommended that where ever and when ever possible we reduce our footprint and employment level in Troy” in favor of communities that act in the best interests of residents and business and that do “not simply use their public position to advance their own private agenda.”
...
Ed Myles, the president of a local manufacturing company, J.E. Myles & Co., said that the area, like the rest of the country, had been hurt by the recession and that it could use the economic boost that the transit center could provide. He said he worried about what companies like Magna would do. The council’s vote “put the kibosh on any other companies moving here.”

“It’s all politics,” he said. “In the meantime, people are suffering.”
For more coverage of this issue, I recommend you read Keep Troy Strong, where my friend Sharon has been tirelessly covering Janice Daniels and the Troy Tea Party since October of last year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Crazy Eddie the Motie wishes you a Merry Christmas, part 3

For the final greetings for the day, here are the Christmas-themed space and science stories that I featured in last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Comet Lovejoy edition) on Daily Kos.




Comet turns into a Christmas star
By Alan Boyle
If anyone questioned whether Comet Lovejoy would become the star of the season — and a lot of people did — the pictures of the past few days have removed any doubt. In the Southern Hemisphere, the death-defying comet is truly this year's "Star of Wonder."

Not only do we have an amazing video of the long-tailed iceball rising from the horizon, as seen from the International Space Station, we also have the stunning pictures and video released today by the European Southern Observatory. Skywatchers at the ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured the comet against the glittering backdrop of the Milky Way.
NASA has a YouTube video as well.



International Space Station Commander Dan Burbank captured spectacular imagery of Comet Lovejoy as seen from about 240 miles above the Earth's horizon on Wednesday, Dec. 21.
More over the jump.

Crazy Eddie the Motie wishes you a Merry Christmas, part 2

Now, something more serious for part 2--a light show set to Christmas music by a drum and bugle corps. Yes, really.



Carol of the Bells 2011 from Robert E Peterson on Vimeo.

We have done this song each of the five years we have done this music/light show. This year it's by Carolina Crown,a drum corps, with a video of them.
I can't get away from drum corps, not even here.

Merry Christmas!

Crazy Eddie the Motie wishes you a Merry Christmas, part 1

For Part 1, I'll let Next Media Animation wish you a funny Merry Christmas. First, the fantasy.




Christmas is approaching, but will the poor people in the US get anything from Santa this year?

Unfortunately, Santa also suffered in the economic crisis. He moved to the South Pole, Mrs. Claus is divorcing him, and the elves are all hooked on coke and snow. Who will come save Christmas? The Chinese, of course!

So what does the Chinese Santa bring? There's no Elf on the Shelf to scare naughty kids, there's no gun show from Santa, there's only bunch of gifts and red envelopes that are filled with cash. By combining the Chinese new year's tradition, the US and the rest of the world will be saved by the generous Chinese wealth. Hurrah!
There is another video, but it isn't as funny and it's also pure self-promotion for NMA, so I'm not embedding it.

On to the next video, which portrays a exemplifies the Christmas spirit here in America during this Long Recession.




Layaways were popular when times were tough during the Great Depression. Some Christmas shoppers are turning to layaways again this holiday because of the state of the economy. But at some K Mart and WalMart retail stores, there's been a Christmas miracles. Anonymous donors nicknamed "Layaway Angels" have been paying off the balance on the layaway account of strangers.

One California K Mart was visited by a "Layaway Angel" that donated $10,000 dollars to accounts that were delinquent and contained kids clothes and toys.

Although this is a heartwarming story for Christmas, not everybody agree that layaways are a good idea. While they allow those too poor to get credit to buy gifts for the holidays on installment, layaways frequently come with fees for handling and for delinquent payments.
How sweet!

Of course, this wouldn't be Next Media Animation without some pointed snark, including the reality behind the first video I posted above.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Now Gingrich misses the Virginia ballot

In my previous post, I reported that Rick Perry had missed making the Virginia primary ballot and predicted that Gingrich probably wouldn't get on that ballot, either. The determination has been made and Reuters has the story.
Leading Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has failed to meet the requirements to be in the presidential primary election in Virginia, where he resides, the state's Republican Party said.

Gingrich had been leading in a poll of Virginia voters and a spokesman for the former speaker of the House of Representatives defiantly pledged to run a write-in campaign for the March 6 vote. However, Virginia does not permit write-ins in primary elections, according to the state code.
...
A December 22 Quinnipiac poll for Virginia had Gingrich ahead with 30 percent of the vote, compared with 25 percent for Romney and 9 percent for Paul. Virginia is one of 11 states holding a primary or caucus on March 6.

After Gingrich staged two campaign events in the state last week, his campaign had been confident that he had made the ballot even as his last-minute scramble raised concerns about Gingrich's abilities to run a national campaign.
Newt was leading in the polls but won't be on the ballot--what a failure of organization! So much for him being the nominee.

As for who will be on the ballot, it's just Romney and Paul. That certainly gives the GOP primary voters a clear choice, one that Romney will most likely win.

Perry fails to make VA GOP primary ballot

AP via Washington Post: GOP: Perry fails to make Va. primary ballot; Gingrich’s fate unclear as signatures verified

Since I don't quote AP stories if I don't have to, I'll just summarize. Romney and Paul are the only candidates that have made the ballot so far. Perry and Gingrich turned in 11,000 signatures each. Perry didn't have 10,000 valid signatures, so he doesn't get on the ballot. Gingrich's signatures are being checked now. He probably won't make it either. Bachmann, Santorum, and Huntsman didn't even submit petitions. I guess we know who's serious about continuing their campaigns, who has the organization, and who has already given up.

Now allow me this moment of schadenfreude.



Above originally posted as Opposition research and schadenfreude on Daily Kos.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Austrian School: Faith-based economics and pseudoscience

Since Ron Paul is leading the polling in Iowa, it's time to examine some of his ideas. My wife did that the other day with Paul's economic philosophy, which is based on the Austrian School, and posted these two links on my Facebook wall.

Rational Wiki: Debating an Austrian: Handy List of Terms
One of the questions every great biologist invariably faces is "Do we debate the creationists?" Similarly, all great economists must ask themselves the question "Do we debate the Austrians?" John Maynard Keynes did it in the '30s and won. Now the Austrians are whining that liberal economist Paul Krugman won't debate them. Anyway, whether or not you want to debate one, here is a handy-dandy list of Austrian terms/dog-whistles that can either act as a brief dictionary or help you avoid a fruitless debate (and debating Austrians is always fruitless) by recognizing undercover Austrians.
LMAO! That certainly puts their school of thought into perspective. Faith-based economics, indeed!

Now the second link:

Slate:The Hangover Theory
Are recessions the inevitable payback for good times?
By Paul Krugman|Posted Friday, Dec. 4, 1998, at 3:30 AM ET

(Yes, the debate is that old--P.S.)
A few weeks ago, a journalist devoted a substantial part of a profile of yours truly to my failure to pay due attention to the "Austrian theory" of the business cycle—a theory that I regard as being about as worthy of serious study as the phlogiston theory of fire.
In addition to using another analogy that's just about as bad as comparing Austrian School economics to creationism, Krugman delivers a devastating takedown of the Austrian School's ideas--and that was 13 years ago. Events since then have demonstrated that Krugman was right and the Austrians even more wrong. As Senator Vreenak would say about the Austrian School:



Occupy Psychopaths video

From Mr. PinkWhiteBlack on YouTube:



An Occupy Wall Street activist explains why he thinks it is very important to spread knowledge about psychopaths and psychopathy. Find out about the important connection between psychopaths and the ruling 1%. This is not taught in schools (but should be).

For those who have trouble listening to the split sound (one channel voice, the other music): You can see a differently audio-mixed version of the same video in HD here.
This video echoes a theme from Blast from the past: Pathology on the Right, a commentary on Krugman's "Two speeches and an editorial".
Dave from Wisconsin is onto something. If the editorial position of The National Review, which has a strong claim to be the leading magazine of conservative opinion, is that empathy is merely a code word for liberal activism, then a proper response would be to point out that lack of empathy is a criterion for diagnosis of both anti-social personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Other diagnostic criteria of these conditions that you and your readers might find of interest include the following, which readers should check against the behavior of their favorite political figures.

For Dissocial Personality Disorder, the World Health Organization's equivalent to Anti-Social Personality Disorder--
  1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others and lack of the capacity for empathy.
  2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
  3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.
  4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
  5. Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
  6. Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior bringing the subject into conflict.
  7. Persistent irritability.
Only three criteria need to be satisfied for a diagnosis.

For Narcissistic Personality Disorder--
  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
At least five criteria must be present for a diagnosis.

A friend of mine (editorial note--actually Kossack G2Geek, not really a friend, but someone I'm a fan of nonetheless) once suggested that people who wish to protest the appearance of a political figure who denigrates empathy as a trait should repeatedly show up with pickets bearing only the diagnostic code for one or both of these disorders (301.7 for ASPD, 301.81 for NPD) and say nothing until someone asks about the numbers. The response might be interesting, to say the least.
The time to pull that stunt may be at hand.

By the way, there is a follow-up to the video above, but I'm not embedding it. The narrator of that one takes too conspiratorial a tone (Knights Templar? Oh, please), which does his otherwise worthwhile message no good. Too bad, as he's mostly right.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More paranoia about Agenda 21

Here we go again. From the Washington Post comes Virginia residents oppose preparations for climate-related sea-level rise.
Over his long career as a public planner, Lewis L. Lawrence grew accustomed to the bland formalities of planning commission meetings in Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, where forgetting to cover one’s mouth while yawning through a lecture was about as rude as people got.

But lately, the meetings have gotten far more exciting — in a bad way, said Lawrence, acting executive director of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission. A well-organized and vocal group of residents has taken a keen interest in municipal preparations for sea-level rise caused by climate change, often shouting their opposition, sometimes while planners and politicians are talking.

The residents’ opposition has focused on a central point: They don’t think climate change is accelerated by human activity, as most climate scientists conclude. When planners proposed to rezone land for use as a dike against rising water, these residents, or “new activists,” as Lawrence calls them, saw a trick to take their property.

“Environmentalists have always had an agenda to put nature above man,” said Donna Holt, leader of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty, a tea party affiliate with 7,000 members. “If they can find an end to their means, they don’t care how it happens. If they can do it under the guise of global warming and climate change, they will do it.”
...
The uprising began at a February meeting about starting a business park for farming oysters in Mathews County, Lawrence and other planners recalled. The program to help restore the Chesapeake Bay oyster population was slated for land owned by the county, but it was shouted down as a useless federal program that would expand the national debt. The proposal was tabled.

As the opposition grew over the summer, confrontations became so heated that some planners posted uniformed police officers at meetings and others hired consultants to help calm audiences and manage the indoor environment, several planners said.

In James City County, speakers were shouted away from a podium. In Page County, angry farmers forced commissioners to stop a meeting. In Gloucester County, planners sat stone-faced as activists took turns reading portions of the 500-page Agenda 21 text, delaying a meeting for more than an hour.

Agenda 21 is an agenda in name only, environmentalists say. The document encourages world governments to consider environmental impacts before developing land or slashing rain forests for resources, said Patty Glick, senior climate-change specialist for the National Wildlife Federation.

“Agenda 21 is the least thing they should be worried about,” said Glick, who like other environmentalists contacted by The Washington Post was surprised at the attention being given the document. “It has no legal or policy implication for local governments in the United States.”

Holt, who began scrutinizing public planning when her interior design business failed after the housing bubble popped, begs to differ. She sees the document as evidence of a global agenda that threatens property rights.

Her suspicions echo those of Tom DeWeese, president of the conservative American Policy Center, who wrote an essay opposing “smart growth” titled “Fight Agenda 21 or Lose Your Freedom.” The ultra-conservative John Birch Society cautions adherents through its Web site that the “Agenda 21 program may already be in your local community, through your home town or city’s membership in . . . Local Governments for Sustainability.”
I've mentioned Agenda 21 and the paranoid Tea Party reaction to it before in response to an article about Tea Partiers in Florida protesting manatee protections.
Everybody knows what the tea party members oppose. High taxes. Big government. Obama's health care plan. High-speed rail.

Now, for at least some local tea party members, there's one more to add: manatee protection.

Happy Winter Solstice 2011!

Solstices and Equinoxes


The winter solstice occurred at 11:30 AM Eastern Standard Time today, so winter has officially arrived.  Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The situation in Wukan escalates

NTDTV has an update on the video I posted yesterday.



A standoff between police and residents in China's Wukan village continues. While police are surrounding the village, residents are not giving up. But with an increased police presence, it is getting harder for the villagers to smuggle in food and many are already running out of supplies.

Wukan—the first village to break away from local Chinese Communist Party control since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Villagers have been protesting land grabs by Communist officials that have gone on for ten years. After one of their representatives died in police custody a week ago, they drove out all local Communist officials and police from the village.

The 13-thousand villagers are now in a standoff with police who have surrounded them. Authorities have also cut off the electricity and water supply to Wukan.

One villager told NTD local authorities have tried to trick them into going to local government offices to be interrogated.

[Wukan Villager]: "My relatives have all received phone calls. The local government phones their homes saying they're their child's teacher and are notifying them to go to city hall for a meeting. So they thought this was very suspicious and didn't go."

The number of police surrounding the village is also increasing.

[Wukan Villager]: "There are twice as many today as there were yesterday. From their uniforms you can see they are police, accompanied by People's Armed Police and SWAT teams."

But how long can the standoff continue? It's getting more difficult to smuggle supplies into the village. Villagers reportedly only have seven days worth of food left.

[Wukan Villager]: "A small number of people have some rice saved, but the vast majority of people are eating instant noodles. Some poor families already have nothing to cook and are relying on donations of 50 cents or 1 or 2 yuan from Wukan villagers to buy food."

While the Wukan protest has been getting coverage from major media around the world, China's state run news outlets have remained silent. Searches for Wukan on the website of The People's Daily yielded no results.

Authorities fear other areas may be inspired by Wukan to take control in their villages. The Wukan villagers have already set up a temporary local council and are demanding Communist authorities allow them to choose their own leaders.
The pessimists who responded to the link to yesterday's post on my Facebook wall look like they will be proved right. My response to them was "The best bet is that the central government arrests the local officials, then restores order. I'm not optimistic about that." I'm even less optimistic now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The village of Wukan, China, in open revolt

It's been a while since I've paid attention to China and The CoDominion. Maybe it's about time I resume. From NTDTV on YouTube:



As we've been telling you this week, tens of thousands of villagers are protesting in Wukan, in Guangdong Province. Now the situation has become a standoff as villagers have kicked out both local officials and police. That came after the suspicious death of one villager in police custody. Here's the latest.

The over twenty-thousand residents of the village of Wukan in south China's Guangdong Province have expelled all local Communist Party authorities, including police, and blocked road access to the village.

The British newspaper The Telegraph was able to get a journalist on the ground in Wukan on Tuesday. Malcom Moore called the current incident the first time on record that the Party has "lost all control" in a situation of "open revolt." This marks the latest escalation in an ongoing confrontation between villagers and local Communist Party officials they've called corrupt and abusive.

For three months, Wukan residents have been staging occasional large-scale protests against a longstanding series of abuses committed by local Party officials. The villagers' biggest grievance was corrupt officials profiting from illegally selling the villagers' land.

The current intensified protest, including the expelling of all police and officials, came after the death in Party custody of Xue Jinbo. He was a Wukan resident who had served as a negotiator with authorities. Party officials claim Xue died of "cardiac failure." But Xue's family say there was evidence of torture on his body, including broken thumbs and bruises.

By Monday, locals had stopped an attempt by hundreds of police and security personnel to enter Wukan. Those forces retreated to a backup location three miles distant, and are now blocking all food and water from entering the town.

As of now, at the fifth day of what some are calling a rebellion, police remain blocked from entering, and some townspeople are making comments suggesting that the confrontation has become about more than just land seizures.

The Telegraph quoted one villager as saying "We are not sleeping. A hundred men are keeping watch. We do not know what the government's next move will be, but we know we cannot trust them ever again."

The situation in Wukan remains uncertain. Other media have managed to enter the village. But anything about Wukan is being quickly censored on the Chinese internet.
My friend Nebris, who comments here occasionally, has been predicting that China is in danger of civil disorder, if not outright civil war. His latest post forecasting this is here. Of course I posted the above video as a comment. I like doing favors for my friends.

Monday, December 19, 2011

If I were still a conservative

I left the Republican Party nearly 12 years ago. As I wrote on my LiveJournal on February 26, 2010:
Ten years ago Monday was my last act as a Republican, when I voted for John McCain in the 2000 Michigan Republican Primary, which was pretty much the high water mark of his campaign. After that, it was all downhill for McCain and George W. Bush won the nomination. As soon as it became clear that W was going to win, I left the party, which I had been a member of since I had registered to vote in 1978. There was no way I was going to vote for W or remain associated with a party that would have him as their standard bearer. The past ten years...have validated my decision.
...
As a scientist, I could not in good conscience have tolerated being associated with such people.
Thus ended 22 years of being a Republican.

Since some habits die hard and I wondered which ones still survived after more than a decade, I took About.com's "What Kind of Conservative are you?" quiz to find out.

Quiz: What Kind of Conservative Are You?

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Faith-Based Fighter, also known as a religious or social conservative. You believe in Judeo-Christian values, restoring God’s rightful place in the public square, and in showing all the unwashed and unsaved liberal sinners the path to salvation, or at least to the GOP.
Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor

I got the result that I expect my ex-wife would get. Lovely. Looks like a dozen years of going to church with her and listening to her pious proclamations had an effect. Too bad she was such a hypocrite that she ended up driving me away from the faith.

If you're wondering about the other possibilities, here they are.
• Flag-Waving Everymen, also known as patriots— believe in championing liberty over tyranny, apple pie over sushi, and that God gave us a two-day weekend so we could enjoy football and NASCAR.

• Free Marketeers, also known as a fiscal conservative—believe in free-market capitalism, tax cuts, and protecting your hard-earned cash from pick-pocketing liberal socialists.
...
• Values Guardians, also known as cultural conservatives—believe in protecting the American way of life and fighting a culture war against liberal moonbats and the lapdogs in the lamestream media who are out to destroy decent, moral Americans like Sarah Palin for daring to defend traditional values.

• Anti-government Gunslingers, also known as libertarian conservatives or Tea Partiers—believe in smaller government, states' rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

• Freedom Crusaders, also known as neoconservatives—believe in taking the fight directly to the enemy, whether it's terrorists abroad or the liberal terrorist appeasers at home who give them aid and comfort.
During the decade before I met my wife, I'd probably have been a Free Marketeer. As for what I am now, I'm an Eco-Avenger.

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.
Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor

That's a much better fit for me. Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, I've always been an environmentalist.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler arrested

From Gawker, filed under Crazies.

Tea Party Founder Walks Into Airport, Presents Gun, Is Arrested

He was arrested at the Delta counter in La Guardia Airport for not having a New York gun license to go with his gun. What Gawker doesn't say, but CBS does, is that he was taking that gun to Detroit. Am I ever glad he didn't get here!

Also, when he was released, he ran away from reporters into a street so dangerous it's called the "Boulevard of Death." Watch the video at the Raw Story link; it looks even worse than the description. So much for his spinning this episode into making a principled stand on behalf of the Second Amendment!

ETA: If you want to read more about Meckler and his organization, read Fiction vs. Fact for the Tea Party Patriots. It's quite enlightening.

MSNBC's Space Advent Calendar, Part 2



In a follow-up to part 1, I present more of the Space Advent Calendar from MSNBC. As with the last batch, these links were orginally posted to Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.

Dec. 11: Beauty of the Inland Sea

Dec. 12: Drone-spotting stirs up debate

Dec. 13: Light up your St. Lucy's Day

Dec. 14: Satellite spots Chinese aircraft carrier

Dec. 15: Hooray for Hollywood

Dec. 16: Olympics under construction

Holiday calendar: Mystery in the Gobi Desert

More to come next week.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No light rail for Detroit

WXYZ had the following report Wednesday morning.




Light rail project gets derailed


Sure enough, it was official by that afternoon.



According to sources familiar with the Woodward Light Rail Project, federal funding for the plan is being pulled and the project is dead.
Crap. So much for the good news on the Woodward light rail line I posted last August. Color me disappointed but not terribly surprised.

Not everyone has given up. The Detroit Free Press reports Woodward light rail investors say they'll press ahead.
The leader of the largest private-sector investor in the abortive attempt to build a light rail line on Woodward Avenue in Detroit said Friday that he would press ahead with plans to build a train-based connection between downtown and the New Center despite Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder putting their support instead behind a modernized system of bus-based rapid transit.

Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Troy-based Kresge Foundation, said the M-1 group of private investors who initially wanted to build a 3.4-mile rail line between downtown and Grand Boulevard do not agree with the decision to kill off the rail line, which was later planned to extend north to 8 Mile Road.
...
The Kresge Foundation had pledged $35 million of the roughly $100 million in seed money pledged for the $550 million rail project.
I wish these people luck. I'm not optimistic, but at least they're willing to put their money where their mouths are.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A video gift from a student

I know I've already posted two videos about the human population reaching seven billion, but a student used the following one during student presentations yesterday and it was too good not to share. Honestly, it hits the highlights of an entire week of my lectures in human population in just under three minutes. It's so good, I'll be using it to conclude my population lectures from now on.



National Geographic on YouTube: Editor's update: in 2050, 70% of the population will be living in "urban areas," not "megacities" as stated in an earlier version of this video. In addition, the total number of countries in the world is now 195, with recognition of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan on July 9, 2011.
For more, surf over to Special Series: 7 Billion at National Geographic Magazine.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nebris and I have a conversation



Over on Facebook, Nebris posted the following link, which I just happened to have open already.

N.Y. Review of Books: How We Were All Misled
John Lanchester
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World
by Michael Lewis
Norton, 213 pp., $25.95

We had a conversation about it, which Nebris posted to his Dreamwidth and LiveJournal. As you can see, we covered a lot of territory.
Me: Excellent recommendation. I have it open in another tab right now.

Nebris: I ran out of Crime Drama and had to read something serious. ;)

Me: Dude, this is still Crime Drama. It's just that it's real-life white-collar Crime Drama.

On that note, here's a money quote:
Boomerang is about what he has come to see as the larger phenomenon behind the credit crunch: the increase in total worldwide debt from $84 trillion in 2002 to $195 trillion now. The thesis is that “the subprime mortgage crisis was more symptom than cause. The deeper social and economic problems that gave rise to it remained.” It is these deeper problems that are dominating economic news at the moment, and led to the desperate measures announced at the European summit on October 27 and to the aborted Greek plan to hold a referendum that followed. The G20 Economic Summit of November 3–4 was dominated by discussion of the Eurozone crisis, but ended with no coherent plan in view, and none has emerged since. Boomerang tells the story of how we got here, and in the course of doing so gathers together an extensive arsenal of data at the top end of my 0–10 Reykjavik waitress scale: the fact that Greek railways have €300 million in other costs; the fact that the Californian city of Vallejo spent 80 percent of its budget on the pension and pay of police, firemen, and other “public safety” workers; the fact that between 2003 and 2007, Iceland’s stock market went up ninefold; the fact that in Ireland, a developer paid €412 million in 2006 for a city dump that is now, because of cleanup costs, valued at negative €30 million.

Lewis has noticed something important about these excesses: that the precise details of how people ran amok varied from culture to culture. Cultural and historical faultlines were exposed by the boom, and behavior varied accordingly.
The credit wasn’t just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way.
I'll repeat. "Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak." What do you suppose that means about us?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You're a mean one, Newt Gingrinch

In a follow up to It's beginning to look a lot like Gingrich, I present the following from Adam Kontras AKA Adam4tvs on YouTube.




Adam Kontras has the story behind this video.
So obvious... yet I don't think anyone's done it? How? I was singing this to myself in the mid-90s on WTVN during the government shutdown. But the kid thing made this a viral video I had to make.

What I don't think a lot of people get about these comments, is they show that Gingrich is 100% corporate. He's been paid millions to lobby in their interest (or advise or whatever the hell he wants to call it) and if you listen closely to all his comments? They're simply anti-union in "helping poor people" clothing. Of course even when he's trying to "help poor people" he is uneblieveably insensitive and says they should use poor kids to clean the schools. Uhm, wow. And it's cheaper too! A no-brainer! If not for those pesky child labor laws.

Folks, this is the stuff that is WAY out in right field. I mean, a loooooooooooooooong time ago we all collectively, understood that if we don't put SOME regulations on corporations? They would do whatever possible to make money. Hire 10 year olds at the cheapest possible rate? Yup. THAT is what Newt is talking about - regulations. This is what I was ranting about last month. And although he's one of the smart ones on the stage - he's 10000000% corporate. Anti-regulations (even the most obvious ones like child-labor laws), and anti-union. Now usually he would mask it a bit better (most of the other candidates have) and they talk about job creation, etc. But the truth of the matter is, a totally free market doesn't work. Especially not in areas that have to do with our health and safety. Say what you want about the FDA, but at the very least I want those standards. It's like the restaurant rating systems here in California... once you know what they let you get away with to get an "A"? You're sure as fuck aren't eating in a "B". These regulations help us... and actually, they help the restaurants put out a good product. It's a situation where government actually does provide a service. Go to a restaurant in Africa and tell me how you feel.
Adam has more about the production of the video itself, including his efforts in getting it to go viral, at the link. He also has a follow-up about his success or lack thereof in doing so here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Gingrich


Christopherduva on YouTube: A Merry Gingrich and a Happy Newt Year!!! Tis the season of the GOP Primaries, and they are desparately searching for a Chosen One. I hope this one doesn't have any baggage.
Thanks to Fran in comments at Hysterical Raisins, who wrote, "Consider this a little holiday gift for you & the Raisinettes." As a Raisinette, I say thank you. It's the perfect gift to share with my readers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Phil Plait on saving Earth from asteroids

Hat/tip to Sheril Kirshenbaum at Culture of Science for the following, which I also posted on Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.





TED Talks on YouTube: What's six miles wide and can end civilization in an instant? An asteroid - and there are lots of them out there. With humor and great visuals, Phil Plait enthralls the TEDxBoulder audience with all the ways asteroids can kill, and what we must do to avoid them.
Remember that the theme of this blog is sustainability and collapse with a science fiction slant. What's a better example of a science fiction cause of the collapse of a civilization than an asteroid/comet impact? Better yet, it's something that has shown up twice in Niven's works. Can you say "Lucifer's Hammer" and "Footfall?"

Besides, this is the kind of challenge that, as Phil Plait points out, would be "a blessing in disguise," as it would unite the planet and help develop more advanced space-faring technology. Of course, that presupposes our ability to keep up the level of technology and organization required as a baseline in the first place. With Peak Oil, that might be an issue.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

MSNBC's Space Advent Calendar



Beginning the first of this month, MSNBC has been posting a picture of Earth and nearby space each day as part of an Advent Calendar. I've been posting links and excerpts of each one as part of Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday for the past two weeks. It's time to start sharing them with the readers of Crazy Eddie's Motie News. I think of it as passing on the gift of wonder.

MSNBC: Holiday calendar: Ornament in space
By Alan Boyle
December 1, 2011
To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, that's no Christmas ornament ... it's a moon. Our moon, of course, hanging above Earth's limb in a picture taken from the International Space Station. It's the first holiday goodie in our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which will unveil a new picture of Earth as seen from space every day from now until Christmas.

Our second annual photo calendar takes its cue from a traditional Advent calendar, which is built to hide one sweet treat beneath each of 25 doors that are opened sequentially on the appropriate day. The idea is give kids something to sink their teeth into during each day of the holiday season, and build up the anticipation for the big treat on the 25th.
Here are links to the rest so far.

MSNBC: Holiday calendar: Masses in Mecca

MSNBC: Holiday calendar: Santa's shrinking domain

This one addresses climate change, so it deserves a fuller discussion.
Few places on Earth have more of a connection to the holiday season than the North Pole: After all, that's where Santa Claus hangs his hat. That's the address most kids write on their Christmas letters. Even NORAD lists that locale as Santa's home base.

But if I were Santa, I'd start thinking about real estate: Over the years, satellite measurements have pointed to a shrinkage in ice extent and thickness in the Arctic, due to rising temperatures. In September, experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that Arctic sea ice had declined to its second-lowest level in the past 32 years, and researchers at the University of Bremen in Germany said the ice coverage had fallen even below the 2007 minimum.
Now the rest.

Holiday calendar: Madagascar's monster

Holiday calendar: Antarctica stripped

Holiday calendar: Streaking for home

Holiday calendar: Pearl Harbor from above 1941-2011

Holiday calendar: Rise and fall of the Dead Sea

Holiday calendar: How an eclipse dims Earth

Holiday calendar: Psychedelic storm

I'll have more next week. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gawker, down on pet gifts, up with drinking gifts



Gawker continues their snarky ways by suggesting gifts for dog owners to give their pets, all the while pointing out that the money could be used in better ways.
You love your dog. Far more than your emotionally distant heart could ever love a human. And why not? Your dog never did anything but express an evolutionarily advantageous convincing simulacrum of love for you. You must show your love back. You must! But what to get Nibbles and Rocky this holiday season? Only the best.
I won't bother with the dog gifts. Instead, I'll direct you all to the causes Gawker suggests your money would be better spent on.

Funding for family planning in sub-Saharan Africa
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Doctors Without Borders
Homeless children
Red Cross disaster relief

Ironically enough, given the link to M.A.D.D. above, the next gift guide displayed a positive attitude about drinking related gifts.
You and your friends have decided to exchange gifts for the holidays. And you're stumped: It's not like you're going to get one of your boys clothing or jewelry, and it's not like any of you would suggest something on the order of a "stocking stuffer," since your girlfriend can worry about that.

You and your boys speak a common language that involves sports and drinking, or drinking and sports, or drinking while watching or talking about sports. Which means the way to go is with something that caters to what you all enjoy. So here's a short list of boozy ideas to help make it easy for you.
Those gifts are fun, but that money might still be better off being donated to M.A.D.D.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nate Silver displays Newt Gingrich's unimpeachable conservative credential

Nate Silver used the pictoral depiction of data to point out Newt Gingrich's one unimpeachable conservative credential:
The chart below shows the DW-Nominate score for the median member of the House of Representatives dating back to the 1930s. DW-Nominate is a statistical system that evaluates the liberalness or conservatism of a member of Congress on economic policy based on his voting record. Positive scores indicate a more conservative member and negative scores a more liberal one. I have portrayed these as moving in the intuitive direction from left (liberal) to right (conservative) in the chart.




The two large red circles in the chart represent the 104th and 105th Congresses, during which Mr. Gingrich was the Speaker of the House. As you can see, they were associated with an extremely large conservative shift. Part of this is because Republicans had gained 53 seats at the preceding midterm elections and so represented the swing votes in the chamber. But the newly elected Republicans also tended to be quite disciplined in their conservative voting even if they came from moderate districts. The typical Republican member of Congress was more conservative in the 104th Congress than in the 103rd Congress, something that traditionally had not happened when a party does well at an election and expands its coalition.
In other words, Newt not only took the house from the Democratic Party, which had controlled it for 42 years, but he managed to break the New Deal Coalition as the ruling force (the current Democratic Party is not the New Deal Coalition, if for no other reason than that the Dixiecrats have all left to become Republican and a lot of socially liberal Northern Republicans have become Democrats, myself among them), and move the House farther to the right than it had been been since 1931. Then he was able to move the House even farther right. That's quite the conservative credential.

Nate, however, didn't color the dots properly, as I noted in a comment:
I have only one complaint; shouldn't the dots for the median U.S. House member elected in 2006 and 2008 be blue? Other than that, it's a very good graph. Not only does it show the massive swing of the median U.S. House member from moderately liberal to moderately conservative after 1994, but it also shows how the House became steadily more conservative over time with a Republican majority, a trend not broken by the four years of Democratic majority. The current U.S. House may be markedly more conservative than its predecessor, but its ideological location is exactly where one would have predicted it would be if the trend from 1998 through 2004 had continued uninterrupted. If anyone wants to see the rightward swing of the GOP, it's right there.
It turns out that Nate had forgotten to color two other dots correctly, either. The GOP also controlled the U.S. House in 1947-1949 (this was the "Do Nothing Congress" Truman campaigned against) and 1953-1955, both of which were led by Speaker Joseph William Martin, Jr. Those dots should also be colored red. If you look for them, they're the two dots farthest to the right in the upper half of the graph--by not very much. Back then, the GOP was a lot less conservative than it is now and the Democrats were less liberal.

Speaking of which, note the trend of the Democratic-controlled Houses from 1985-1993, then look at the positions of the 2007 and 2009 Houses. Just like the current House fits on the trend established by the earlier GOP majorities, the previous two House continues the trend established by the pre-1994 Democratic majorities. Both parties are moving away from the center, although the GOP is moving farther and faster.

Michigreen trailer

Hat/tip to Solardude1 on Twitter for the following.



This is the promotional trailer for the 30 minute documentary, Michigreen: Michigan's Renewable Energy Future. The film looks at the impact that renewable energy might have on Michigan's ailing economy. Is Michigan government doing all they can to take advantage of their manufacturing legacy? What cutting edge technologies are leading the way in this green revolution? All this and more are addressed in this Public Television documentary.
This video shows all the good things that were happening in Michigan two years ago. Most of them are still happening, but no thanks to Governor Rick Snyder, who broke up the Department of Labor, Energy, and Economic Growth early this year. Note that the first person interviewed is from this now-defunct governmental agency.

Gawker is in a "Bah, humbug" mood



Not content with gifts for people you hate and the five stupidest kinds of Christmas gifts, which I linked to here, Gawker has continued its gift guide of booby-trapped and stupid gifts with Horrible Christmas Gifts for the Children of People You Hate and Top Five Gifts Under Five Cents. Both of them are fiendishly creative. As for why anyone would give gifts from these two gift guides, I'll let John Cook and Adrien Chen explain. First, John.
There is no better way to ruin someone's holiday than to arm their children with the tools to endlessly annoy them. Here are some suggestions.

After you have children, you quickly learn to fear birthdays and holidays. More dreadful than even the sugar psychoses and attention tantrums is the destabilizing influence of gifts: Into your carefully calibrated world of punishment and reward are thrust these wrapped mysteries from clueless relatives and negligent friends. If you're not careful—if you don't establish and enforce rigid operational security to prevent your children from becoming aware of the existence of a boxed present from Uncle Ed in the closet—you can find yourself thrown into a nightmare of someone else's making.

Here are some good ways to use your friends' children as proxies in a war of annoyance.
Among John's suggestions are chemistry sets (as a scientist, I'd suggest binoculars or a telescope instead), ice cream makers, Veggie Tale videos, and Daddles. That last one is perfect for kids of men with bad backs.

Now Adrien.
The economy is crappier than a Porta-Potty at an outdoor electronic dance music festival. We've all got to pinch pennies, and the holidays are no exception. So, we present our top five gifts under five cents.

Most "cheap" gift guides stop at $25—even $100. But if you're going to be cheap, be cheap. Now, you might be saying: "Pshaw. What could I possibly buy for nickel? I'm going to go take out a fourth mortgage on my home to buy my kids those Justin Bieber Xbox-enabled jet skis." That's the kind of attitude that got us in this mess in the first place, buddy! With these gifts, you can fulfill all your holiday gift-giving obligations for less than a Kit-Kat bar.
Among Adrien's suggestions are a single piece of anise candy (imagine hard candy with the taste of licorice), wooden plugs, a tiny piece of amber, and a pre-decimalization UK coin. The first and last might actually be interesting to the right people.

By the way, the idea to post these links is a gift in its own way. Gawker is sending them to my email inbox. Nothing better than a gift-wrapped blog entry idea delivered directly to me every day!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Krugman on Paul Ryan

Fat Cat goes Galt


Remember this?
Paul Krugman quoted Jonathon Chait, on the revelation that Paul Ryan is an Ayn Randite:
Ryan clearly has a passion for ideas and isn’t just interested in short-term positioning. It would be nice if the party had people like that who didn’t also happen to be loons.
...
Last week, I called Republican budget sorta-kinda point man Paul Ryan "crazy but honest."
It turns out that Krugman has since figured out that Ryan isn't honest, either.
One crucial thing you need to understand about political journalists is that with some honorable exceptions, they don’t know or care about actual policy. In a way, that makes sense — the skills needed to cultivate contacts, to get the inside scoop on what’s going on in Congressional scheming or campaign war rooms, are very different from the skills needed to interpret CBO spreadsheets. The problem, however, is that all too often political journalists mistake the theater of policy for reality (or don’t care about the difference).

Hence, the awful decision of Politico to give Paul Ryan an award as healthcare policymaker of the year.

Even if you like the thrust of Ryan’s ideas, even if you think privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher scheme is fine, what became painfully, embarrassingly clear during the debate over the Ryan plan was that Ryan is, well, incompetent; the plan was a mess, from its invocation of ludicrous Heritage Foundation projections to its crazy assertions about what would happen to discretionary spending. It’s true that the plan “got everyone talking”, as Politico says — but mostly it got people talking about what a mess Ryan’s effort was.

Oh, and it was pretty clear that Ryan wasn’t being honest about his own numbers.

What’s going on here, I suppose, is that Politico is mistaking theater for policy. Ryan isn’t an important health care reformer, or even minimally competent in his attempted wonkery, but he plays a deep thinker on TV. And the people at Politico either don’t understand the difference, or they don’t care.
Here's what I had to say in response.
As you've figured out, Paul Ryan isn't an intellectual, although he plays one in Congress; he's a salesman who uses the pretence of being an intellectual to sell himself and what passes for his ideas. As Gaius Publius on AmericaBlog wrote in response to your comment last January that Ryan was being "intellectually lazy" in not knowing the truth about the pre-crisis debt status of European countries:
Unfortunately, you can't be intellectually lazy if you're not an intellectual. Ryan's a Movement Conservative operative, one with good enough hair to get him into Congress.

Intellect is not his playing field, it's his "act", as Krugman correctly points out (or his "USP" in sales parlance, unique selling point, like "squeezably soft" or "doesn't leave a ring"). Ryan's playing field isn't intellect, it's power, and his tool is "Say anything to win". It was Rove's tool, Bush's tool, Rumsfeld's tool; it's Newt's tool, McCain's tool, Boehner's tool; and it's Ryan's tool.

You can't be an intellectual if the mind doesn't matter.
So Ryan isn't "crazy but honest," he's just another politician who will lie in the service of his "higher ideal" Based on what I've posted about Ayn Rand and Objectivism, you can tell what I think of his "higher ideal"--not much!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Terrible gifts from Gawker



No, I'm not kidding. Gawker is starting their holiday gift guides this year with gifts for people you hate and the five stupidest kinds of Christmas gifts. The first category shows some cruel creativity. The second shows absolutely no creativity. Both of them ask for comments from readers. This being Gawker, the commenters are pretty inventive and open, enough so that one comment was elevated into an article of its own: Comment of the Day: Are you there God? It’s me, Summer’s Eve. Yes, it's exactly what you think it is.  It should come as no surprise that it was inspired by "Gifts for people you hate."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ten American Dystopias from io9



In the very first post, I promised "digressions about post-apocalyptic science fiction." Aside from throwing brickbats at Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism, I haven't commented much on science fiction lately. Time to take advantage of a gift from io9 to correct this oversight:

10 Great American Dystopias
In a country whose ideal of success is often called "the American dream," there are plenty of nightmares too. The United States has its own particular brand of dystopia, full of religious thuggery, class warfare, and the spectre of slavery. Here are ten of the greatest dystopian stories ever created about America.
Seven of these are truly post-apocalyptic fiction, but the first two (Neuromancer and Gamer) on the list of them are merely dystopic, and one (Gattaca) portrays what happens when things go horribly right. All of them, however, are futures to be avoided.