further on the descent into political prisencolinensinainciusol

…if voters who agree with Obama are inclined to vote for Republicans because Republicans are blocking Obama’s ideas, then not only is 2012 lost, but the descent of American politics into hysterical irrationality is complete.

Steve Benen – The incentive behind GOP obstructionism

Posted in notes

You’re getting warmer, warmer… REALLY

Climate Skeptics Take Another Hit | Mother Jones

“Muller’s views on climate have made him a darling of skeptics,” said Scientific American, “and newly elected Republicans in the House of Representatives, who invited him to testify to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology about his preliminary results.” The Koch Foundation, founded by the billionaire oil brothers who have been major funders of the climate-denial machine, gave BEST a $150,000 grant.

But Muller’s congressional testimony last March didn’t go according to plan. He told them a preliminary analysis suggested that the three main climate models in use today—each of which uses a different estimating technique, and each of which has potential flaws—are all pretty accurate: Global temperatures have gone up considerably over the past century, and the increase has accelerated over the past few decades. Yesterday, BEST confirmed these results and others in its first set of published papers about land temperatures. (Ocean studies will come later.) Using a novel statistical methodology that incorporates more data than other climate models and requires less human judgment about how to handle it (summarized by the Economist here), the BEST team drew several conclusions:

  • The earth is indeed getting warmer. Global average land temperatures have risen 0.91 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years. This is “on the high end of the existing range of reconstructions.”
  • The rate of increase on land is accelerating. Warming for the entire 20th century clocks in at 0.73 degrees C per century. But over the most recent 40 years, the globe has warmed at a rate of 2.76 degrees C per century.
  • Warming has not abated since 1998. The rise in average temperature over the period 1998-2010 is 2.84 degrees C per century.
  • The BEST data significantly reduces the uncertainty of the temperature reconstructions. Their estimate of the temperature increase over the past 50 years has an uncertainty of only 0.04 degrees C, compared to a reported uncertainty of 0.13 degrees C in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
  • Although many of the temperature measuring stations around the world have large individual uncertainties, taken as a whole the data is quite reliable. The difference in reported averages between stations ranked “okay” and stations ranked “poor” is very small.
  • The urban heat island effect—i.e., the theory that rising temperatures around cities might be corrupting the global data—is very small.

In the press release announcing the results, Muller said, “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK.” In other words, climate scientists know what they’re doing after all.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

The neoneoneocons are back in neo-neon

Leslie H. Gelb Argues That Neocons Like Bill Kristol Are Back to Warmongering – The Daily Beast

Once again, the neoconservatives mount their steeds. They hint that we need another war or at least a little military strike, this time against Iran. They’re pushing to increase military spending; the China threat, you know. They’re also trying to further weaken Obama by charging that he’s losing Iraq to Iran by not keeping U.S. forces there (without mentioning, of course, that Iraq is throwing them out).

I find it hard to believe that any of these new tricks will work, but I have come never to underestimate the neoconservatives, that formidable group mostly of Republicans who sprang from the loins of the great Democratic senator from Washington, Henry “Scoop” Jackson. They are very smart and far tougher than their liberal and moderate opponents. They write and speak with far greater simplicity and force. (Democrats just must make 17 complicated points about everything.) They are always relentless and on the attack. The only ones to stand up to them effectively have been other Republicans, specifically the best of the foreign-policy realists such as George Shultz, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and George H.W. Bush.

Here’s a standard technique for the neoconservatives: One of America’s many nasty enemies does something provocative, as they inevitably do. The neocons say the president has to get tougher. Then the enemy does another nasty thing, and the neocons say the president wasn’t tough enough. And so on until they’re off to the races and suggesting that the only effective means to stop the devils is a bombing attack, or a hundred thousand troops, in and out quickly, of course. If some poor Democratic president doesn’t follow their advice, he’s labeled a wimp who is endangering U.S. security. If the wimp starts a war, the game continues with charges that the president isn’t really trying to “win” the war and should be adding more troops. We’ve heard this routine so many times, you’d think that the wimpy Democrats would have built up some immunity, and that the media would stop providing the bullhorns. Alas, it goes on and on.

Iran sits atop the neocons’ list of priorities. Beyond argument, its leaders are dangerous. They are probably trying to construct nuclear weapons. On top of this, we seemingly have some Quds Force general buying a hit on the Saudi ambassador in a D.C. restaurant. Bill Kristol is leading the charge, calling the recent alleged Iranian assassination plot “an engraved invitation” to use force. He continued: “We can strike at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and weaken them. And we can hit the regime’s nuclear weapons program, and set it back.” Were these mere musings? No! He goes on to say that if the White House doesn’t use force, Congress should authorize force against a variety of Iranian targets, and against its “nuclear weapons program.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is equally direct. He approves the administration’s current efforts to tighten and target. “But they will not scare it,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don’t, we are asking for it.” And what of the likely wave of terrorist attacks that will follow worldwide from such attacks? The Iranians are not going to just cower in the corner because we talk and act tough. Alas, that just doesn’t happen. They escalate, too.

And in case you believed that Republicans, faced with America’s economic calamity and indebtedness, won’t press for higher military spending, take another look…

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,


Prisencolinensinainciusol (with lyrics)

GoodShit › this may be in an alien language, as yet unknown on earth

Posted in Music, notes

Psychotic Elephants Smash Depressed Donkeys

p m carpenter’s commentary: Virtual treason:

I’m tempted to also recommend an escalated Phase IV in the immediate afterwash of a presidential Phase III’s vilification campaign against Republican despicability and ludicrousness: a nearly unprecedented but rhetorically justifiable, Perry-like Phase IV of “treasonous.” What else should one call what congressional Republicans have wrought? Their obstructionism has exemplified a prodigious betrayal of trust; for 10 months the House has dithered on cultural warring rather than even a singular jobs bill, while the Senate minority-as-effective-majority has blocked bill after helpful bill for reasons purely political — and deliberately destructive to the nation’s welfare.

It’s not treason to believe that some of us (and in the broad sense “we”) must suffer in the short term for the sake of longer term fiscal, political, even moral health.

American conservatism operates according to a coherent ideology, which is not the same as to say that it’s fully thought out, or that very many conservatives are capable of explaining it, or that it makes sense and will work, but conservatives are not shy about making its implications, as they see them – the general shape of their free market capitalist utopia – obvious. Read more ›

Posted in Philosophy, Politics Tagged with:

“Why GOP benefits from blocking jobs policies the public supports”

The voter is cynical, but not as cynical as the political class and the media. Together, they expose the very worst about America, in being utterly typical of it, but the fog of banality conceals the catastrophe from view.

Posted in notes, Politics

OWS are the real Constitutionalists


The Constitution says that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union, a Republican Form of Government.”

A “Republican Form of Government” is not a government controlled by Republicans.

Rather, a Republican Form of Government” is a representative government. It is a responsive government. It is a government, to use Abraham Lincoln’s famous words, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” A republican form of government is a government that pays attention to the welfare of the vast majority of its citizens, or in the words of OWS, it is a government that cares about and is responsive to the 99 percent, rather than a government that is captured by the 1 percent and made to do that 1 percent’s bidding.

The guarantee of a republican form of government, which I have just quoted, is called the Guarantee Clause of Article IV. The Guarantee Clause, as my colleague Akhil Amar has pointed out, was designed to prevent temporary majorities or even minorities from using the levers of government to entrench themselves in power. It was designed to ensure that a small group of powerful and wealthy individuals could not hijack the government and make it do their bidding to the exclusion of the vast majority of the public– the public for which democratic governments were created to serve. The Guarantee Clause was designed to prevent a small determined faction from seizing the reins of government, and making it a ventriloquist’s dummy, a mere puppet of the powerful.

The second half of the Guarantee Clause speaks of invasion and “domestic violence.” The framers understood that republics are not lost only to conquering armies. They are destroyed by corruption which leads to feckless, unresponsive government, and causes government to lose legitimacy in the eyes of the broad mass of its citizens. The riots and insurrections come later on to deliver the final blow. That is why the Guarantee Clause concerns both the destruction of majority rule and domestic upheaval. The two are opposite sides of the same coin. Caesar seized Rome after the Roman Senate had become deeply corrupt and the Republic could no longer defend itself. When the Senate is for sale, a coup is unnecessary to destroy republican government. The coup has already occurred from within.

The text of the Constitution is available for everyone to read. Why does no one pay attention to the Guarantee Clause today? Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the author of Dred Scott v. Sanford, drove the Guarantee Clause out of mainstream constitutional law. He reasoned that whether a government was “republican” was a political question and therefore courts could say nothing about it. A hundred and twenty years later, the Warren Court flirted with the revival of the Guarantee Clause in the famous apportionment cases, Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, but ultimately decided to use the Equal Protection Clause to remedy the harms of an unrepresentative government. This is particularly ironic: the Equal Protection Clause was not intended to say much if anything about voting rights, while the original point of the Guarantee Clause was that government should be responsive to majorities and not be hijacked by powerful minority factions.

The Guarantee Clause has been forgotten. But there is no reason for us to follow the author of Dred Scott today. He was wrong about the justifiability of slavery. He was also wrong about the meaning of republican government.

Posted in Miscellany

The Walking Alive (Occupy This Blog)

Any initial confrontation with the totality of political life, addressing the fundamental assumptions of culture and society, will tend toward the diffuse and inchoate, and will always seem on the verge of dissolving into its constituent pieces.

Still, though demonstrations come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and may represent ideas and intentions that the demonstrators themselves as well as contemporary observers are incapable of fully articulating, they all represent warnings.  They all implicitly threaten more and, potentially, much worse.  They are embryonic insurrections, musterings of forces on a political stage that may next time provide the setting for a riot, a battle, or, on occasion, a victory celebration.

In short, political demonstrations always “demonstrate” among other things that continued failures from within the political system must lead to civil disruption and other unpredictable events. If the United States and the world system it formed and that it still, however shakily, leads and organizes, are in the same place or worse politically and economically a year or two from now, the protests will likely be bigger, and eventually there will be other and escalating signs of frustration and anger from the badlands – a lot of it ugly and even incoherent: “The hungry chew their words.” Read more ›

Posted in Culture & Entertainment, History, Politics Tagged with:

“Manual” Excerpts

Showing Scott how to do something today, I noticed that his post-editing screen, when he was logged in, didn’t show the “Excerpt” box – something that would make writing the excerpts that show up in the “Recent Posts” and other areas impossible.  If you don’t write them yourself, the blog will just make a selection of its own from the first words of your post.

Handling the problem turns out to be very simple:  At the upper right of your screen when you’re in “Add New Post” or “Edit Post,” there’s a little gray box that says “Screen Options.”  Click on it, and you’ll bring up a set of checkboxes, allowing you to pick and choose what the screen shows.  Check “Excerpt” and the box ought to show:

Excerpt box highlighted - click for full-size version

You can also take the opportunity to switch off options that you never use, and therefore just clutter up your page.

Use this as a thread to ask any other questions about site functionality that you might have.

Posted in Meta Tagged with:

bob’s photo posts

probly turned into a butterfly or something by now

Just added a page that gathers together bob’s photo posts.  I struggled hard to come up with a a title for the page, as well as for this post, as you will see if you look above, and then again.

Now, the page (like every- and anything else in these parts) ought to be thought of as a work-in-progress, but I hope that even in its current primitive form it’ll serve as encouragement to bob to add to the archive, as the spirit moves bob.

(Note to bob:  Any new posts in the new site category “bob’s photos” will automatically show up in the archive page.)


Posted in Meta Tagged with: , ,

Noted & Quoted


And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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