Archive for December 1st, 2009
On the Senate floor yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made a request on behalf of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) that senators proposing amendments to the health care bill place the text of their amendments online. Immediately following Reid’s request, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) took to the floor to object to the transparency proposal. Enzi’s argued that, although the bill appears to lead to greater transparency, “we can also see ways that this can limit the ability for the minority to offer amendments.” Watch it:
Lincoln “issued a statement chastising Republicans for blocking efforts at government transparency.” Just weeks ago, the Republican Party lined up to accuse Democrats of opposing greater transparency. In October, the RNC and the House Republican Conference churned out YouTube videos to attack Democrats for working “behind closed doors.” A week later, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) attacked Democrats, saying that “instead of listening to the American people, Democrats hid behind closed doors.” Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently complained that the health care bill was “drafted behind closed doors.”
Fascinating story. Now you know why I read the obits.
Bob Keane, who founded the West Coast independent label Del-Fi Records in the 1950s and is best known for discovering and recording rock legend Ritchie Valens, has died. He was 87.
Keane, who survived non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosed when he was 80, died of renal failure Saturday in an assisted living home in Hollywood, said his son, Tom Keane.
"He was like the original independent record man in those days," said Tom Keane, a songwriter and record producer. "He was the guy going out and finding talent and developing it and getting it out to the masses."
A clarinet player who once led his own 18-piece orchestra, Keane briefly headed Keen Records in 1957 and released Sam Cooke’s No. 1 hit single "You Send Me" before launching Del-Fi Records.
In May 1958, Keane heard about Valens, a 17-year-old Mexican American singer and guitar player from Pacoima.
"I saw him at a little concert in a movie theater," Keane recalled in a 2001 Times interview. "There he was, a Latino kid doing just a few riffs and a couple of songs. But I was very impressed by his stage demeanor. The girls were going crazy, screaming."
Keane invited Valens, born Richard Valenzuela, to record demos at his home studio.
"We horsed around for a while and he started singing ‘Come On, Let’s Go,’ " Keane told the Times in 1980. "All he had was this title — he kept playing the same riff over and over. . . . I helped him put an ending and a beginning to it and added lyrics. Then we took it into Gold Star [Recording Studios] and recorded it."
With his name shortened by Keane, Valens was on his way…
A week or two back NPR gave some guy about three minutes to complain about how the climate community silenced his breakthrough research on snow patterns in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You see, most warming models predict that snowfall will eventually go up in the Sierra Nevada. The guy (I forget his name) found that it didn’t. QED, global warming is wrong and he can prove it if only academia’s cruel gatekeepers would let his paper into a major journal. NPR then gave about one minute to a gatekeeper who pointed out that the result has already been published five times.
And so it goes. Frankly, as a practicing scientist I am impressed at how well the climate community at East Anglia looks after angry critics have presumably picked through every email dating back to 1996 and published the most embarrassing selections. Look at it this way. In the course of two graduate degrees and a postdoc I have worked at Universities with reputations ranging from exemplary to very good, yet off the top of my head I can think of a couple of scandals that made the news, others that the University resolved internally and a small number more that did or did not get handled informally. I cannot think of a single department that would smell like roses if someone stole twelve years of private correspondence and released a selection of emails calibrated to make it look bad. Science works fine in aggregate, but this idea that science must have only flawless people doing impeccable work is a strawman set up by the superstitious to discredit empiricism through nut-picking.
As far as I can tell from Kevin Drum’s summary, other than the question of whether researchers deleted some emails that might have fallen under a Freedom of Information request the entire controversy boils down to non-experts misinterpreting ordinary communication in bad faith. That FOIA question, however, is worth talking about. Can you interfere with a Freedom of Information request? No, you can’t. That sounds like misconduct. Fortunately universities have mechanisms to deal with misconduct. Most will mediate a dozen or so exactly like this in a typical year. It seems to me that even if the emails were hacked illegally, East Anglia should still hold the appropriate hearings. If anyone involved did wrong then impose the appropriate sanction (usually ranging from a written reprimand to a limited ban on publication or grant applications). Maybe other scientists think that I’m granting too much to an angry mob. If so, fine. I try pretty hard to keep my personal sympathies separate when it comes to questions of misconduct and punishment.
Separately, Drum links to a complaint about East Anglia’s PR.
I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.
….The crisis has been exacerbated by the university’s handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond….When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while Cru’s opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped “no comment” and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean “guilty as charged”.
….The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they’re up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.
The complaint here is both fair and unfair. One the one hand one can hardly deny that East Anglia shot itself in the groin when the story bubbled for so long without their input. But really, what did you expect would happen? We pay scientists to do science. Especially given the effort that it takes to talk intelligently about climate science*, we don’t pay them very much. I have worked on grants from NOAA, the agency that also funds climate research. The idea of our lab or our department retaining a worthwhile PR firm would certainly amuse the staff who scrambled every year to find money for cookies and coffee at our weekly seminars. The money for scientists to do anything that isn’t science just isn’t there. If you want professional PR to defend science then you have to fund it with something other than the grants that fund the science itself. Forcing researchers with a day job to act as the front line against Exxon’s army of professional denial firms, in the media, is ridiculous and sad. It’s like asking Sidney Crosby to defend Pittsburgh by way of competitive corndog eating.
Especially early in this story’s life cycle, when you could hardly expect an average reporter to make much sense of the science, a sheaf of personality stories (e.g.) complained about the defensive attitude among climate researchers. Again, you have to wonder what people expect. Taken collectively the “science” of warming denial has exactly as much credibility as the anti-evolution brigades. Their ideas amount to a series of turds thrown indiscriminately at the wall (solar forcing, natural cycles, the world is really cooling et cetera ad nauseum) in the hope that something might stick. The same people come back over and over with a new argument every year, as if the argument they made last year (which also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that carbon-forced climate warming is a hoax) was just a practice round. It should not stretch the imagination to see how a professional scientist could get jaded after decades of attack by angry hysterics who, almost to a man, lack the training to understand what they are talking about (note: meteorologist means “weatherman”).
Congrats to King Pyrrhus
What really confuses me is why the denial crowd is still so angry about this. They already got what they need. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet started to melt this year, and that was the stable half of Antarctica. That arctic ice that deniers like our own BOB have crowed about turned out to be a thin, temporary layer that hid a dramatic loss of once-permanent arctic sea ice. Outside of a very few exceptions (some very cold regions, where warming will not make much difference, have seen increased snowfall), glaciers are shrinking everywhere on Earth.
Let’s say that everyone agreed with the IPCC conclusions tomorrow. Even better, let’s say that everyone agreed with the bulk of climate scientists who think that the IPCC has been far too conservative (actual warming consistently breaks IPCC hundred-year forecasts in five or ten). What do we do? The climate has a decade of inertia built into it. Current models that describe what would happen if we cut our emissions back to the stone age are still scary as hell.
Climate deniers never had to hold out forever. They just needed confusion to last long enough that cutting carbon to keep the climate stable no longer made any sense. It worked! Keeping the public confused for a couple more years won’t do much more at this point. So why the grumpy act? Typical rightwingers, I guess, angry when they’re losing and twice as angry when they win.
(*) Not kidding about this. A set of courses that roughly introduced climate science, required for my Master’s in Oceanography, nearly wiped me out. That semester I learned exactly how many hours of sleep one needs on a continual basis to stay functionally alert (four).
The universal cry (most recently heard from Huckabee) is "Don’t blame me!" Now Dean Baker sees Ben Bernanke wanting to avoid responsibility for his decisions and actions:
Ben Bernanke’s column in the Washington Post has to be absolutely infuriating to anyone old enough to remember the events of 2008. In this column, Bernanke lectures the public about the need for the Federal Reserve Board to preserve its independence from Congress, explaining that:
The government’s actions to avoid financial collapse last fall — as distasteful and unfair as some undoubtedly were — were unfortunately necessary to prevent a global economic catastrophe that could have rivaled the Great Depression in length and severity, with profound consequences for our economy and society. (I know something about this, having spent my career prior to public service studying these issues.) My colleagues at the Federal Reserve and I were determined not to allow that to happen.
It’s nice to talk about the Fed’s response to this crisis, but Mr. Bernanke’s studies apparently did not tell him the obvious, that allowing an $8 trillion housing bubble to grow unchecked would lead to an economic disaster like what we are now experiencing. He and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve Board either could not see, or did not care about, this huge bubble. As a result, Ben Bernanke has been running around for much of the last year and a half telling us about his knowledge of the Great Depression.
It is worth quickly explaining why a collapsed housing bubble leads to a recession, since the policy people responsible for this disaster have done so much to try to obscure the obvious.
In the years prior to its collapse, …
Same route, today 51 min 28 sec: 3.0 mph (though slightly faster than yesterday: 3.04 instead of 3.02 mph).
I have to say that HabitForge.com is helping.
Chris in a comment points out that swapping your old CDs, DVDs, Books, Games, and the like for new ones is one inexpensive way to obtain gifts for the holidays. Take a look at this list of swap sites.
1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)
2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)
3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)
4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)
5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)
6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)
7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)
8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)
9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.)
10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)
And much, much more. The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff.
I won’t be going over the cliff with them.
For the past few months, Republicans have been trying to claim that the Democrats are jamming health care legislation through Congress as quick as possible before can read the bill and see what’s actually in it. But today as the Senate began its health care debate the Republicans changed their tune and objected to a rule proposed by Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] to require that all amendments be made publicly available online at least 72 hours before being voted on.
“In light of some of the trust problems and transparency problems we have, while this appears to lead to greater transparency, we can also see ways that this can limit the ability for the minority to offer amendments, and, therefore, I object,” said Sen. Mike Enzi [R, WY] in response to the proposed rule.
Ironically, Enzi’s own website states:
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., believes every piece of legislation in the Senate should be available to the public with a full cost analysis by the CBO three days before consideration by any subcommittee or committee of the Senate or on the floor of the Senate.
Enzi objected to the rule on the floor today on behalf of the entire Senate Republican caucus. Republicans intend to flood the chamber with poison-pill amendments as part of their “holy war” to kill the bill. According to the Politico, Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] already has “hundreds” of ideas for amendments to introduce during the debate. Requiring amendments to be posted online for 72 hours could gum up the works in the GOP’s operation to, well, gum up the works.
Sen. Lincoln, one of the key Democrat swing votes on health care, responded to the Republicans’ objection to her amendment transparency request in a press release. “I was looking forward to reviewing all amendments as they become available, and I want to ensure that my constituents have the same opportunity," she said. "Over the past months, I have heard from many Arkansans who are frustrated and lack accurate information on the health care proposals in Congress. In response to their comments, I created my ‘Health Resources Page’ to streamline materials from my own website and other Congressional resources. I will continue to update this page with any materials relevant to the ongoing health reform proposals before Congress.”
The GOP has no taste for the responsibilities of governing. They like to posture and campaign, and they don’t care what happens to the country and the people in the meantime.
Obama is now finding out. Paul Krugman at his blog:
What’s going to happen, economically and politically, over the next few years? Nobody knows, of course. But I have a vision — what I think is the most likely course of events. It’s fairly grim — but not in the approved way. This vision lies behind a lot of what I’ve been writing, so it might clarify things for regular readers if I laid it out explicitly.
Start with the short-term economics. What we’re in right now is the aftermath of a giant financial crisis, which typically leads to a prolonged period of economic weakness — and this time isn’t different. A bolder economic policy early this year might have led to a turnaround, but what we actually got were half-measures. As a result, unemployment is likely to stay near its current level for a year or more.
And politically it’s hard to do anything about that. Those economic half-measures have landed the Obama administration in a trap: much of the political establishment now sees stimulus as having been discredited by events, so that it’s very hard to come back and scale the policy up to where it should have been in the first place. Also, with the apocalypse on hold, the deficit scolds have come back into their own, decrying any policy that actually involves spending money.
The result, then, will be high unemployment leading into the 2010 elections, and corresponding Democratic losses. These losses will be worse because Obama, by pursuing a uniformly pro-banker policy without even a gesture to popular anger over the bailouts, has ceded populist energy to the right and demoralized the movement that brought him to power.
This morning, Fox News ran a chyron alleging that the new Congressional Budget Office report on premiums concluded that the Senate health care bill won’t lower health care premiums:
The report actually concluded the opposite — that, on average, premiums would substantially decrease for the majority of Americans purchasing coverage in the individual market and maintain or lower premiums in the small and large employer markets. In fact, almost all of the leads in today’s newspapers get it right:
– “As the Senate opened debate Monday on a landmark plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, congressional budget analysts said the measure would leave premiums unchanged or slightly lower for the vast majority of Americans, contradicting assertions by the insurance industry that the average family’s coverage would rise by thousands of dollars if the proposal became law.” [WP, 11/30/2009]
– “The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the Senate health bill could significantly reduce costs for many people who buy health insurance on their own…” [NYT, 11/30/2009]
– “On average, 134 million Americans insured through large employers will see no rise in premiums and may pay 3 percent less than they would if Congress failed to pass a health-care overhaul plan, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said yesterday. Subsidies also will lower costs as much as 59 percent for 18 million people buying their own insurance.” [Bloomberg, 12/1/2009]
Of course, the unchanged or slightly-reduced premiums come “in addition to the higher quality benefits that those in the exchange will receive.”
The damned Blue Dog Democrats insisting on cutting back the stimulus. (The GOP, of course, fought it tooth and nail.) But enough was spent to help the economy. Joseph White at the Wall Street Journal:
The Congressional Budget Office late Monday said it estimates that the federal stimulus package sustained between 600,000 and 1.6 million jobs in the third quarter, and raised gross domestic product by 1.2 to 3.2 percentage points higher than it would have been without the program.
The CBO said the figures were estimates made "using evidence about how previous similar policies have affected the economy and various mathematical models that represent the workings of the economy."
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf, in a blog post, said stimulus recipients have reported that about 640,000 jobs "were created or retained" with stimulus funding through Sept. 30. "However, such reports do not provide a comprehensive estimate of the law’s impact on employment in the United States. That impact may be higher or lower than the reported number for several reasons (in addition to any issues about the quality of the data in the reports)," Mr. Elmendorf wrote. The CBO is required to comment on the figures released by stimulus recipients.
The Smith Island Cake is an old tradition:
No one knows the exact origin of the Smith Island Cake. Women have been making the cakes on Smith Island for as long as anyone can remember. It seems that every family on the island has their own recipe, handed down through the generations. The Authentic Smith Island Cake is beloved the world over. But how did these famous cakes come to be?
Legend has it that during the nineteenth century, when watermen would set out from October to December for the oyster harvest, their wives would send them with quilts, provisions, and cakes. Layer cakes became stale far too quickly, so the women took to making thinner layers, and replaced butter cream frostings with fudge. The cakes lasted longer, but more important, the men preferred the taste and the presentation. Women began to take great pride in incorporating more and more layers, making each one impossibly thin, and frosting the cakes with their very own cooked fudge recipe. Thus, the Smith Island Cake was born.
You can order the cakes from the link, and Christy Goodman explains why (beyond the cake itself) you might want to order:
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving is a wonderful holiday present for any shaver. Full disclosure: I wrote the book. More disclosure: I occasionally get emails from guys who have the book saying that it changed their life—not in a big way in the overall scheme of things, but in enabling them finally to enjoy something that was previously a chore.
You guys who have a copy feel free to comment on whether you think this book would be a good gift for a shaver, either novice or experienced.
I should add that I wrote the book so that it could serve as a gift: the opening chapters are written with the idea that the reader may not have thought about changing their shaving tools and techniques and thus explain the benefits of this method of shaving. In other words, the book is persuasive as well as instructional.
Just a thought.
I decided to up the ante a bit: Mitchell’s Woof Fat has a reputation of being difficult to lather and requiring a “soap brush”—one that is stiffer and more scrubby, such as a boar brush. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, poppycock: once you learn to use a shaving brush, it will work well with any decent shaving soap or shaving cream. The “soap brush/shaving cream brush” idea is a red herring.
Today I selected one of my softest badger brushes, an Omega Silvertip. It has a good loft, and on the face feels like the soft caress of a lover’s hand.
I wet the brush under the hot water tap, gave it a small shake, and brushed gently the surface of the soap with the tips of the brush. Moving the brush quickly in a circle, it was soon loaded with soap, and when I worked up the lather on my face, it was everything that one could ask for.
The Futur with its Astra Keramik blade smoothly removed all stubble with no problems at all, and the Paul Sebastian aftershave remains a favorite and a great way to end a shave.
A wonderful perfect shave to kick off the month.