Monday ReadsPosted: December 20, 2010
There was a terrible oil pipeline explosion in San Martin Texmelucan, Mexico.
A massive oil pipeline explosion lay waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 28 people were killed, 13 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves.
The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, initally estimated to have affected 5,000 residents in a three-mile (five-kilometer) radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted and in some cases burned to ash in the intense heat.
Relatives sobbed as firefighters pulled charred bodies from the incinerated homes, some of the remains barely more than piles of ashes and bones.
The disastrous accident is being blamed on thieves who were attempting to steal crude oil.
Investigators found a hole in the pipeline and equipment for extracting crude, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.
“They lost control because of the high pressure with which the fuel exits the pipeline,” he said.
The oil flowed more than half a mile (one kilometer) down a city street before diverting into a river. At some point a spark of unknown origin caused both to erupt in flames.
I found that story on Fox News. I’m not sure how much attention it will get in the U.S. Cudos to Fox for covering it.
The National Journal has a preview of what we’re in store for in 2012 if we can’t dump Obama and find a qualified, electable liberal to replace him. According to the author, Ronald Brownstein, there are two types of Republicans who might run for president: “managers” like Mitt Romney and “populists” like Sarah Palin.
The most prominent populists are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The leading manager is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, although he could face competition from such current governors as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, and, conceivably, New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich straddles both camps but leans toward the populist side. Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a self-described “Sam’s Club” Republican with an equable manner, also straddles the line but probably tilts toward the manager camp, as would Sen. John Thune of South Dakota if he ran. Conversely, if Texas Gov. Rick Perry reverses his decision and joins the race, he would enter as a full-throated populist.
No matter which type we get stuck with, it’s going to be a nightmare.
The two groups disagree on some issues (trade, aid to banks), but the most important differences between them are cultural and stylistic, not ideological. The populists thunder; the managers reassure. The populists stress their social values; the managers tout their economic competence. The populists rage at the elite; the managers mingle easily with them.
To their supporters, the populists represent a cultural statement: Who they are is more important than what they will do. For the managers, that equation is reversed: Their biggest selling point is their agenda, not their identity.
Of course, Obama might be able to get some of his base back now that Congress has suddenly handed him DADT repeal. IMHO, Obama didn’t really want it, but he’ll take the resulting bump it will probably give him. It’s not clear yet what results the tax cuts will have on Obama’s popularity. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.
Also at the National Journal, there’s an interesting piece by Michael Hirsch: Obama Tried to Placate Liberal Economists
At a White House news conference on December 7 in which he announced a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, Barack Obama chastised his liberal base for sticking unrealistically to their “purist” positions.
What the president didn’t say was that a few hours earlier he had met with and tried to assauge some his most vociferous liberal critics — economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Alan Blinder, and Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary.
Excuse me? Why the hell did it take so long for this story to get out?
“He didn’t really respond,” said one of the participants. “He said it was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of small-government rhetoric and policies dating back to Ronald Reagan. “He seemed to be looking for a way to reassure the base. Or maybe it was just to reassure himself.”
Um…presidentin’ is hard. Part of the job is influencing “the narrative.” Maybe if Obama had actually tried, he could have accomplished something. But why try? Might as well just relax, play basketball, and vacation in Martha’s Vineyard wine tours, enjoying Hawaii, and let the other Reaganites control “the narrative.” The article even harks back to Obama’s praise of Reagan during the primaries.
We just have to dump this loser!
There’s a great post on Washington’s Blog arguing for a causal connection between income inequality and the crashes of 1929 and 2008.
…recent studies by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are waking up more and more economists to the possibility that there may be a connection.
Specifically, economics professors Saez (UC Berkeley) and Piketty (Paris School of Economics) show that the percentage of wealth held by the richest 1% of Americans peaked in 1928 and 2007 – right before each crash…
Please go read the whole thing.
Raw Story reports that a new study supports the hypothesis that the “Supreme Court is becoming a tool of corporate interests.”
A study has found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has undergone a fundamental shift in its outlook, ruling in favor of businesses much more often than previous courts.
According to the Northwestern University study, commissioned for the New York Times, the Roberts court has sided with business interests in 61 percent of relevant cases, compared to 46 percent in the last five years of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who passed away in 2005….
Meanwhile, a second study, from the Constitutional Accountability Center, has charted the growing influence of the US Chamber of Commerce on the courts. The chamber started filing amicus briefs with the top court three decades ago in an effort to prompt more business-friendly rulings.
According to the study, the Roberts Supreme Court has sided with the Chamber 68 percent of the time, up from 56 percent under the Rehnquist court, and noticeably higher than the 43 percent during the relevant part of Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court, which ended in 1986.
Fox News reports the results of another study, one that finds that “Prime Time TV ‘Objectifies and Fetishizes’ Underage Girls”
According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.
PTC’s report, entitled “New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV” is based on a content analysis drawn from the 25 most popular shows in the 12-17 demographic throughout the 2009-2010 television season.
“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave.”
“Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after,” Winter said.
I have to say, this study reflect what I’ve noticed in the small sample of TV I expose myself to. Prime time is sure different than when I was a teenager.
At the Washington Post, there’s a story about (surprise!) hypocrisy in the Senate.
The Senate Armed Services Committee prohibits its staff and presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation from owning stocks or bonds in 48,096 companies that have Defense Department contracts. But the senators who sit on the influential panel are allowed to own any assets they want.
And they have owned millions in interests in these firms.
The committee’s prohibition is designed to prevent high-ranking Pentagon officials from using inside information to enrich themselves or members of their immediate family.
But panel members have access to much of the same inside information, because they receive classified briefings from high-ranking defense officials about policy, contracts and plans for combat strategies and weapons systems.
Of course it’s not just hypocrisy. It’s a wide open invitation to corruption.
Since I’m a psychologist, I’m going to throw in a story about psychological research. The author, Tyler Burge, is a professor of philosophy at UCLA. He discusses one of my pet peeves–the way brain imaging research is glorified in the media, even though it’s really just based on correlations between brain activity and specific behaviors. While the results of these studies can be interesting, they aren’t sufficient to actually explain human behavior.
Imagine that reports of the mid-20th-century breakthroughs in biology had focused entirely on quantum mechanical interactions among elementary particles. Imagine that the reports neglected to discuss the structure or functions of DNA. Inheritance would not have been understood. The level of explanation would have been wrong. Quantum mechanics lacks a notion of function, and its relation to biology is too complex to replace biological understanding. To understand biology, one must think in biological terms.
Discussing psychology in neural terms makes a similar mistake. Explanations of neural phenomena are not themselves explanations of psychological phenomena. Some expect the neural level to replace the psychological level. This expectation is as naive as expecting a single cure for cancer. Science is almost never so simple.
Correlations between localized neural activity and specific psychological phenomena are important facts. But they merely set the stage for explanation. Being purely descriptive, they explain nothing. Some correlations do aid psychological explanation. For example, identifying neural events underlying vision constrains explanations of timing in psychological processes and has helped predict psychological effects. We will understand both the correlations and the psychology, however, only through psychological explanation.
Unfortunately, Burge wants to replace the evidence from brain imaging research with perceptual research. Okay, but perception doesn’t fully explain human behavior either.
I could make the same argument for other psychological fields. For example, what about child development? One problem with research on brain structures is that every child’s brain develops differently, depending on the experiences the child has with his or her environment. The brain is so flexible that each human brain is truly unique–even though there are obviously many similarities across individuals.
Anyway, it’s an interesting article. Check it out if you’re interested in psychology.
Soooooo… what are you reading this morning? Please share!