12/31/08

Is this the last post of 2008?

Countries don’t become prosperous by having extremely low wages. Countries have low wages because they’re poor. Countries prosper by having reasonable quality infrastructure and a reasonably healthy and well-educated population. Unions can neither magically create wealth out of thin air, but neither can they magically destroy wealth. What they can do is influence at the margin the way wealth is distributed — a bit more to the workforce and somewhat less to the managers and the shareholders. That’s why people who represent the interests of managers and shareholders don’t like them. It’s a perfectly understandable sentiment, but not one that the broader public should find persuasive. |Yglesias|

Forty miles over Texas, six years ago

The suit protects the crew in many scenarios; however, there
are several areas where integration difficulties diminish the capability of the suit to protect the crew. Integration issues include: the crew cannot keep their visors down throughout entry because doing so results in high oxygen concentrations in the cabin; gloves can inhibit the performance of nominal tasks; and the cabin stow/deorbit preparation timeframe is so busy that sometimes crew members do not have enough time to complete suit-related steps prior to atmospheric entry.

As Columbia entered the atmosphere, one crew member was not yet wearing the ACES helmet and three crew members were not wearing gloves. Per nominal procedures, the crew wearing helmets had visors up. There was a period of about 40 seconds after the orbiter loss of control (LOC) but prior to depressurization when the crew was conscious and capable of action. Part of this short timeframe was undoubtedly employed in recognizing that a problem existed, as the indications of LOC developed gradually. The crew members could have closed their visors in this timeframe but did not. The SCSIIT attributed this to the training regimen, which separates vehicle systems training from emergency egress training and does not emphasize the transition between problem resolution and a survival situation. Once the cabin depressurization began, the rate of depressurization incapacitated the crew so quickly that even those crew members who had fully donned the ACES did not have time to lower their visors.

Source: Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report, p. 28 (via).

12/30/08

"Boy, what's the big deal here?"

Even as we've been occupying ourselves arguing about which dastardly scheme the GOP will use to defeat EFCA, the Grand Old Party has been busy implementing what Josh Marshall calls, "the GOP's devious plan to become the party of southern whites over the age of 50." Marshall, I should say, is talking about the controversy that erupted after Chip Saltsman decided to promote his campaign for the chairmanship of the GOP by distributing a humor CD including the song "Barack the Magic Negro."

On the politics of it, one of the really interesting things about this controversy is the way that it exposes the lack of coherence of the Republican Party at this moment in history. Mike Duncan, the current RNC Chairman who Saltsman is hoping to unseat, immediately expressed disapproval saying, "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate, as it clearly does not move us in the right direction." As the days have passed, though, more and more Republicans have come forward to say that they don't really see what the controversy is about. The upshot is that Politico is reporting today that, "the controversy surrounding a comedy CD distributed by Republican National Committee chair candidate Chip Saltsman has not torpedoed his bid and might have inadvertently helped it."

On the substance, a lot of the discussion seems to assume that the whole issue boils down to the use of the word 'negro' in the title of the song. I'm sure that some people are offended by that, and it's surely not in good taste, but when I listen to the song (WMA!) what jumps out and offends me is the spectacle of a well-off white man impersonating an uneducated black man questioning Obama's blackness. Ick.

The last word:
One of the distinguishing characteristics of modern American conservatism is that it believes in a curious concept of “color blindness.” In this view, racism is bad. But absent truly egregious behavior, it’s not something you’d really get all that upset about nor is it something you should be really attuned do. But so-called “political correctness” — meaning something like anti-racism that’s gone too far — is a really serious problem. Any hint of political correctness is worth getting upset about. And the views of actual members of racial minorities as to what is and isn’t racist should be completely discounted. Rather than saying that the prudent and decent white person will steer a mile clear of racist activity — sending out “Barack the Magic Negro” CDs, for example — the best course of action is to deliberately drive straight at the line and then get really upset at anyone who says you’ve crossed it. |Yglesias|

* -- The title quote is from Mark Ellis, chairman of Maine's Republican Party.

12/28/08

Why aren't there any good songs about card drives?

Count Marc Ambinder as an EFCA skeptic, at least for 2009. As near as I can decipher his argument, Ambinder's idea is that EFCA can't get by the Senate unless it has a veto-proof majority and that the prospects for that majority are dim. Maybe so; if Ambinder has any cred at all, it's as a nose counter.

That said, count me an Ambinder skeptic. Consider his recommendation going forward:
So -- maybe -- EFCA will have to wait until the summer of 2010, after the primaries, when Republicans in Ohio and Pennsylvania will be more vulnerable to pressure from unions. In the meantime, the unions have to figure out a way to be patient, and Obama's team has to figure out exactly how many votes in the Senate they have. If they've got a hard count of more than 60, then everything I've written above is moot. |Ambinder|

This just doesn't make any sense. If EFCA is popular, then the Republicans can't credibly threaten a filibuster. If EFCA isn't popular, then unions won't be able to use it as an issue to mobilize voters in 2010.

More generally, I think there has been a trend toward overestimating the power of the filibuster and the potency of the filibuster threat. Politically, the Republican party is in the wilderness and the narrative solidifying around the 2008 campaign is that voters decisevely rejected the hyper-partisan attack politics that have defined the party since 1994. In that environment, it's going to be very difficult for the Senate Republicans to engage in comprehensive obstructionist tactics. So they can't filibuster everything, and will have to carefully consider the consequences whenever they do.

Notes on sport

Item: The Lions are playing on the road in Green Bay today where, it turns out, they've lost 17 straight. Naturally, the Lions Report did a feature about how the rookies still have a positive attitude because they haven't yet been touched by the Lambeau Curse.

Item: I can't say that I fully understand who is and is not champion of what, but I'm looking forward to a Mir / Lesnar rematch.

Item: Since we need some cliche ridden end of year blogging around these parts, these are my nominees for top sports stories of 2008:
  • Tiger Woods grits out 91 hole victory at US Open.

  • Nadal defeats Federer at Wimbledon

  • Michael Phelps

  • Giants put an end to Patriot streak at Superbowl XLII

12/25/08

Ahem

Entered into the Blog of Record without further comment... for now.
Another sign of the pro-Obama times: An MTV exec says they're changing their reality shows: "Our shows are going to focus less on loud and silly hooks and more on young people proving themselves. These are themes that are consistent with the Obama generation." | via ben smith |

12/23/08

12/19/08

Oh. I thought they were in the Bible.

So, I'm enjoying the Joe6paq family holiday sing-a-long, family and friends gathered around the piano belting out holiday favorites. Many readers will recall the contrapuntal lyrics in "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (e.g. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games – like Monopoly).

When we got to the rousing,"You'll go down in history" my "like Columbus" was met by the kids' "like Tupac".

Children are our future.

Freedom Eagle strikes!

12/17/08

Fine dining in the Delta

A scientist visiting an outdoor restaurant was startled to see a Laotian rock rat among the nearby wildlife. The hairy, nocturnal, thick-tailed rat, which resembles a squirrel, had been thought for centuries to be extinct.

"There is a certain amount of shock because our scientists will sometimes see something that doesn't fit anything they know," said Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the Fund's Mekong Program. "They run through a catalogue of wildlife in their brain, asking themselves, 'Have I seen this?'" |CNN|

The article does not explain the failure of restaurant staff to discover the rat.

12/15/08

"Let the Right One In"


Absolutely the best vampire movie I have seen in years. It really succeeds despite being a vampire movie. It's very Swedish, which in this case is a good thing. I can't really tell you why you need to go see this movie, but you need to go see it as soon as possible.



Here is some random bits of the film that I liked. None of these are the main reasons you need to go see the movie, of course, because like I just told you, I can't really tell you that.

* The characters hang out at the "Sun Palace."

* With one exception, the CG effects are incredibly subtle, yet effective.

* You find out the right and wrong ways to try to murder someone and/or to hide a body in Sweden.

* You find out the absolutely wrong way to try to commit suicide in, well, anywhere

12/12/08

Some Eastern Seaboard residents have reported seeing skinny, aggressive squirrels

The Acorn Bubble is over:
In far-flung pockets of northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, scientists have found no acorns whatsoever.

"I can't think of any other year like this," said Alonso Abugattas, director of the Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, Virginia. |CNN|

As long as we're bailing....


I think and hope that Bush's folks will use TARP money to extend a lifeline to GM and Chrysler to get them through to the end of January, where we won't have lame duck Republicans to kick around anymore.

But while we're handing out money, how about a bailout for the newspaper industry?

Sure, it's not at all equivalent. Journalists are white-collar workers who presumably have more job mobility than do folks in manufacturing. And unlike the auto industry, it's hard to see how newspapers could return to profitability, since their business model is being eaten, digested, and evacuated by the future.

But the sudden acceleration of the of the newspaper industry's slide is putting downward pressure on our already hurting economy. And, more importantly, as the newspapers contract, our nation's total news-gathering capability also shrinks. Reporters are being fired, whole bureaus are being closed. As a people, we know less and less about what is happening.

So what about it? How about a cool 5 billion to reopen some overseas bureaus? It's chump change compared what we are prepared to hand off to GM's management.

Or maybe just a billion for NPR?

Consider this an open auto- OR newsy-bailout thread

12/11/08

Where be his quiddities now?


On one hand...
Everything I've heard is completely consistent with PN's report, though that does beg the question of how this goof got elected and reelected in the first place.

(ed.note: Please no emails telling me this is the incorrect use of the phrase 'beg the question', though I know you're right. I've decided that this misuse is too widespread, too serviceable and too lacking in an alternative not to simply persist in using it.) | Josh Marshall |

On the other hand...
While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight. | BTQ |

On the gripping hand, Jason says:

The term "beg the question" suffers from being a terrible name for what it describes. Terms of art should ideally suggest to layfolk what they actually are on their face OR be sufficiently obscure that layfolk don't easily come up with another interpretation.

Linguists and Philosophers would do all of us a favor by adopting a different term, or just sticking with petitio principii.

Discuss.

Meta update: I think DRs suggestion is perfect, so I've updated the title accordingly. Feel free to continue to suggest titles, however. For the record, the old title was: It turns out that coming up with titles for blog posts is actually one of the hardest parts of blogging, so feel free to suggest a title for this post.

12/10/08

SEIU and Blago


Don't know if you've noticed it, but Blagojevich is making that statement at the UE sit-in. Oh well. That's not nearly as embarrassing as this:
The U.S. attorney's complaint states that Blagojevich mused aloud with his advisers about the possibility that he could seek a high-paying job with Change to Win, the coalition of seven unions -- dominated by SEIU -- that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Blagojevich and his chief of staff wondered aloud about a "three-way deal" in which he would appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman believed to be the woman identified in the complaint as "Candidate 1," to Obama's Senate seat; Blagojevich in return would become Change to Win's executive director; and Obama would reward Change to Win with pro-labor policies. |WaPo|

Even if Blagojevich was just daydreaming, it's still noteworthy that the Governor had that particular fantasy. Why SEIU? Why Change To Win? One suggestion:
The alleged role of the SEIU official was surprising, given that the union had not figured publicly in the investigation into Blagojevich (D). But on another level, the SEIU's apparent involvement is an indication of the extent to which it has, under the leadership of its ambitious and controversial president, Andrew L. Stern, become an omnipresent force in Democratic politics. |WaPo|

This sounds right as a description of what SEIU, Stern, and Change To Win have been up to. One thing to note is that this state of affairs is precisely the opposite of what Stern and his cronies were arguing when he began his campaign to blow up the AFL/CIO four years ago. At that time, Stern was arguing that unions ought not to be so involved in politics, but should instead focus their resources on organizing. He seems to have changed his mind.

A point more clearly: If a crook like Blagojevich[1] thinks that Executive Director of your labor federation looks like a sweet gig then you've got a problem.

-------------------------
1 - Properly pronounced "bluh GOY-ye vich" in the character of Professor Frink.

12/9/08

Getting ahead in Illinois


Word is, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested. I voted for Blagojevich -- and picked up the refrigerator magnet pictured above -- back when I was a grad student in Illinois. Back then, 2002 I think, we all thought that he might run for president one day.

The thing I remember about my introduction to Illinois politics being bemused by the way that the outgoing Republican Governor, George Ryan, had managed to be so corrupt as to destroy the state Republican party as a functioning institution.

Here's a question. What will happen in Illinois now that both parties have been discredited?

12/8/08

The viral marketing continues

At the end of the day, it’s hard for me not to reach the conclusion that the backlash is, not coincidentally, coming just as Gladwell’s hit upon a politically charged topic and reached conclusions that are discomfiting to the very successful. I’ve seen a few people express the notion that Gladwell’s conclusion — that success is determined largely by luck rather than one’s powers of awesomeness — is somehow too banal to waste one’s time with. I think those people need to open their eyes and pay a bit more attention to the society we’re living in. It’s a society that not only seems to believe that the successful are entitled to unlimited monetary rewards for their trouble, but massive and wide-ranging deference.

Beyond that, it’s a society in which the old-fashioned concept of noblesse oblige has largely gone out the window. The elite feel not only a sense of entitlement, but also a unique sense of arrogance that only an elite that firmly believes itself to be a meritocracy can muster. Gladwell not only shows that this is wrong, but he does an excellent job of showing why it feels right. He explains that success does, in fact, require hard work — lots of it — and that people who think they got where they are through effort rather than good fortune are at least half right. The issue is that in some ways the best luck of all is the luck to be in a position to do hard work at a time when it pays off. | Yglesias |

It's a new world out there

Leading political figures in the Chicago area have turned out to support the sit-in -- including the former South Side state senator who was elected president last month.

"Number one, I think that these workers, if they have earned these benefits and their pay, then these companies need to follow through on those commitments," Obama said during a news conference Sunday.

"And, number two, I think it is important for us to make sure that, moving forward, any economic plan that we put in place helps businesses to meet payroll so that we're not seeing these kinds of circumstances again." |CNN|

Meet the David Gregory

On the one hand, he's the consummate empty suit, eager to be won over by fatuous arguments so long as they are presented seriously by serious people who are serious about being political moderates. To take a recent example, see the shining shitpile of his performance during the auto bailout fiasco, when Gregory was always eager to bask resplendently in the light of worries that bailing out the auto companies would be throwing good money after bad. On the other hand, Russert's Meet the Press was the creche for high Broderism, so Gregory provides continuity with the tradition.

12/7/08

score

[Origin: Late Old Engish 'scoru' - "twenty," from Old Norse 'skor' - "mark, tally," also, in Icelandic, "twenty," from Proto-Germanic '*skura-', from Proto-Indo-Euorpean base '*(s)ker-' - "to cut" (cf. Old English 'sceran'; see shear). The connecting notion is perhaps counting large numbers (of sheep, etc.) with a notch in a stick for each 20. This counting notion is the origin of the modern sense in sports (1742, originally in whist). In Old French, "twenty" (vint) or a multiple of it could be used as a base, e.g. vint et doze ("32"), dous vinz et diz ("50"). Meaning "printed piece of music" first recorded 1701, from the practice of connecting related staves by scores of lines. The verb meaning "to cut with incisions or notches" is attested from c.1400; the slang sense "achieve intercourse" first recorded 1960.]

n.
1. The record of points or strokes made by the competitors in a game or match.
2. The total points or strokes made by one side, individual, play, game, etc.
3. An act or instance of making or earning a point or points.
4. In Education or Psychology, the performance of an individual or sometimes of a group on an examination or test, expressed by a number, letter, or other symbol.
5. A notch, scratch, or incision; a stroke or line.
6. Notch or mark for keeping an account or record.
7. A reckoning or account so kept; tally.
8. Any account showing indebtedness.
9. An amount recorded as due.
10. A line drawn as a boundary, the starting point of a race, a goal line, etc.
11. A group or set of 20.
12. Plural 'scores', a great many: Scores of people were at the dance.
13. Reason, ground, or cause: to complain on the score of low pay.
14. Informal.
  1. The basic facts, point of progress, etc., regarding a situation.

  2. A successful move, remark, etc.

15. Music.
  1. A written or printed piece of music with all the vocal and instrumental parts arranged on staves, one under the other.

  2. The music itself.

  3. The music played as background to or part of a movie, play, or television presentation.

16. Slang.
  1. A success in finding a willing sexual partner; sexual conquest.

  2. A purchase or acquisition of illicit drugs, as heroin or cocaine.

  3. A single payoff obtained through graft by a police officer, esp. from a narcotics violator.

  4. A successful robbery; theft.

  5. Any success, triumph, happy acquisition, gift, or win.

  6. The victim of a robbery or swindle.


tr. v.
17. To gain for addition to one's score in a game or match.
18. To make a score of: He scored 98 on the test.
19. To have as a specified value in points: Four aces score 100.
20. In Education or Psychology: To evaluate the responses a person has made on (a test or an examination).
21. Music.
  1. To orchestrate.

  2. To write out in score.

  3. To compose the music for (a movie, play, television show, etc.)

22. Cookery. To cut ridges or lines into (meat, fish, etc.) with shallow slashes, usually in a diamond pattern, before cooking.
23. To make notches, cuts, marks, or lines in or on.
24. To record or keep a record of (points, items, etc.), by or as if by notches, marks, etc.; tally; reckon (often fol. by up).
25. To write down as a debt.
26. To record as a debtor.
27. To gain, achieve, or win: The play scored a great success.
28. Slang.
  1. To obtain (a drug) illicitly.

  2. To steal.

  3. To acquire; be given.

29. To berate or censure: The newspapers scored the mayor severely for the announcement.
30. To crease (paper or cardboard) so that it can be folded easily and without damage.

intr. v.
31. To make a point or points in a game or contest.
32. To keep score, as of a game.
33. To achieve an advantage or a success: The new product scored with the public.
34. To make notches, cuts, lines, etc.
35. To run up a score or debt.
36. Slang.
  1. To succeed in finding a willing sexual partner; have coitus.

  2. To purchase or obtain drugs illicitly.

  3. To elicit and accept a bribe.

Idiom
37. Pay off or settle a score, to avenge a wrong; retaliate.[source]

12/6/08

It begins

CHICAGO - Laid-off workers at a Chicago factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay owed to them.

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors are staging the sit-in in shifts after learning earlier this week the plant would close Friday.

Leah Fried (LAY'-uh FREED'), an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, says Republic failed to give 60 days' notice required by law. And, she says, the company claims Bank of America is preventing it from paying wages for those 60 days and earned vacation time.

Bank of America says it's not responsible for Republic's financial obligations. |Chicago Tribune|

Not a cent for tribute

I think this is just about the best jobs program ever:
...a massive expansion of the federal program to weatherize homes and federal buildings would include a six-month training period for new workers.

Complex green infrastructure initiatives -- such as building renewable energy plants, improving the electrical grid and installing "smart" meters that allow consumers to reap benefits from using electricity at off-peak hours -- would take effect well into the second year. |WSJ|

I'm not all that green compared to lots of folks I know, but you don't have to be all that green to recognize the need for greener policies.

The thing that really gets me about this, though, is its utter sanity. Can this be real? The next president is proposing a policy that rests on a reasonable assessment of several problems we face.

The economy, already in recession, has nosedived into a liquidity trap. The Keynesian remedy for this situation is a massive expansion of government spending. But not just any spending will do. The government must spend on brick and mortar, and it makes no difference whether the projects are of any use at all.

But we face another problem. We've based our economy on an increasingly scarce and unsustainably dirty resource. By focusing spending on green infrastructure, the Obama administration will address a global problem that has been allowed to fester for years and years.

Useful!

To highlight the absurdity of finding sanity refreshing, here's a short video:

Saturday morning cartoon

This too shall pass

The word on the radio when I woke up this morning was that there's finally an auto industry bailout deal in place. Naturally, the big three got less money than they'd asked for. Naturally, the money wasn't taken from the bloated TARP. Instead, the plan is to take the money from the Fuel Efficiency Research Program.

So we're going to save the auto industry by cannibalizing the subsidy for green auto technology. Perfect.



In other news:

12/5/08

Happiness is contagious

for reals:
While there are many determinants of happiness, whether an individual is happy also depends on whether others in the individual's social network are happy. Happy people tend to be located in the centre of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people.
The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people.

Indeed, changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large scale structure in the network, giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. These results are even more remarkable considering that happiness requires close physical proximity to spread and that the effect decays over time. | via |

In related news, the United States ended Prohibition 75 years ago, today.

Empirical data!

For 50 years, from the 40's to the 90's. the province of Ontario had a card-check organizing system....So what was the record there?
....
Arthurs answered that in all of his research about labour law complaints under card check, he could not find a single case where the employer complained of a union intimidating workers to unionize when they didn't want to.

via

You've come a long way baby!


(via)


Robot jokes for robots:[1]
Knock knock.
Who's there?
A robot.
Oh, shit.

What's the difference between a regular robot and a killer robot?
The gnawing jeers of men.
...
Why did the robot order a milkshake?
To blend in with the general human population, making it easier to infiltrate society and—in time—conquer it.

Why was six afraid of seven?
Because seven was a robot.
|McSweeney's|

---
1 - I think we've linked to this before.

12/4/08

Obama and EFCA

The other day, Obama spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer answered "yes" when asked whether Obama was still a strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. In some quarters, this has been taken to show that Obama isn't really such a strong supporter. After all, Pfeifer could have unleashed a full-throated stemwinder, or at least parsed the question closely enough to repudiate the merest possible suggestion that yes might possibly mean no.

But who am I to tell you to trust a politician?

Here's why you should be optimistic about EFCA, or at least rely on Obama's real support. Obama's political interests will be furthered by the passage of EFCA.

I don't mean by that EFCA will ingratiate Obama to Gettlefinger, Weingarten, and Stern. Rather, an expansion of the labor movement -- which is to say, an expansion in the number of workers who have direct experience of organizing campaigns -- is ipso facto an expansion of Obama's base. Why wouldn't he favor that?

12/1/08

"Truth does not do as much good in the world as the semblance of truth does evil"


Surely this is not the case.

Today, as always, dedicated sophists of all ideologies would like to so discredit the bastions of expertise that moderately educated people no longer have any assistance in discerning the truth or falsehood of of the sophists' claims.

With respect to everything from global warming to the financial crisis, without years of study it is impossible for the average joe to determine when the current crop of ascendant experts is correct, or when those who snipe from the sidelines--attacking methodology, questioning motives, flinging as much mud as possible--actually have a good point.

Some might argue that this quote lights the way forward: Perhaps we should automatically disbelieve--not just distrust, disbelieve, every statement that one can't verify oneself.

But it seems to me that this is just another way of giving up on actually engaging the world. What do you think?

Quote from Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 64, via Sullivan. | Image credit.
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