Saturday Reads: Jupiter and the Moon, the Myth of the Dying PC, and the Strange Psychology of Barack Obama

Jupiter (Photo : NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Jupiter (Photo : NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Good Morning!!

If you have clear skies where you live this weekend, you might be able to see some spectacular views of Jupiter and the Moon. National Geographic reports:

Up first on Saturday, April 13, look towards the high western sky after local sunset for a waxing crescent Moon. Look to its far upper left and you will see a super-bright star – that is planet Jupiter- visible easily even from within heavily light polluted city limits.

As the sky darkens -about an hour after local sunset – look to the Moon’s immediate left and you will notice a distinctly orange-tinged, twinkling star. Aldebaran represents the red eye of Taurus, the bull constellation and is 65.1 light years from Earth. A true monster compared to our little Sun- Aldebaran’s diameter would reach beyond the orbit of Mars if it replaced our Sun at the center of the solar system.

The crescent Moon will guide skywatchers to star clusters within Taurus constellation on April 13th. Credit: A. Fazekas/Starry Night software

The crescent Moon will guide skywatchers to star clusters within Taurus constellation on April 13th. Credit: A. Fazekas/Starry Night software

Look carefully between Aldebaran and the Moon in a darkened sky and the Hyades star cluster will come into view. Binoculars may help make out the distinctive V-shape of this 250 light year distant star association – one of the closest to Earth.

Now scan to the lower right of the Moon and a tight hazy patch of little stars can be glimpsed even with the naked eye from suburban skies. Known as the Seven sisters, the Pleiades is one of the better known sky targets for backyard stargazers. This rich open cluster actually has more than 40 young stars as members – no more than 10 million years old – and most can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes, however with the unaided eye will pick out the brightest five to seven of its stars.

By Sunday night, April 14th, the Moon will have risen higher in the western evening sky for a striking visual pairing with brilliant Jupiter. The cosmic duo will appear to be separated by only a couple of degrees – less than the width of your two middle fingers held at arm’s length.

In addition, on Sunday, you might be able to see Jupiter in the daytime according to Science World Report.

Tomorrow, April 14, you could have the chance of seeing Jupiter during the daytime and join the ranks of people that have spotted the giant plant while the sun is in the sky.

During daylight, the sky can look like an unbroken swathe of blue on a clear, sunny day. This makes it difficult to pick out celestial features since there are no “markers” to go by. The night sky, in contrast, has the benefit of possessing constellations to navigate by.

Yet tomorrow, the moon will be up during the daytime, which makes all of the difference in the world. The day sky is, in fact, just as transparent in daylight as it is on a dark night. If you know exactly where to look and have something to focus your eyes on, you can see the brighter and larger planets in the blue sky.

So what planets can you see? You can spot Venus easily during the daytime. In fact, during Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, large numbers of people in the crowd were able to see Venus over the Capitol Dome. Jupiter, which will be making an appearance tomorrow, is slightly more difficult to spot. It’s further from the sun, which means that it’s less well lit than Venus.

I’m hoping it will clear up here so I can try to spot Jupiter in the sky tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain today, so I don’t know if I can see the starts this evening, but I plan to give it a try.

I’m writing this post on a laptop computer that I bought in August 2008. It runs on Windows Vista. It used to be that I’d have to buy a new computer every couple of years, but I’ve had this one for more than four years and it’s showing no sign of breaking down or running out of memory. I do have a back-up laptop that is a bit newer, but I still like this one better.

The reason why I bring this up is that I’ve been seeing articles recently about the death of the PC and how pretty soon PCs will be replaced with other, more exciting gadgets. These rumors are based on sales data that shows people aren’t buying as many PC’s as they used to. This may be bad news for some corporations, but it’s good news for us customers.

At Slate, Will Oremus explains: “The Real Reason No One’s Buying PCs Anymore: They’ve Gotten Too Good.”

It’s certainly true that people are increasingly spending money on new tablets and smartphones rather than new computers. But reports of the PC’s demise are grossly exaggerated. If the PC is dead, what am I typing this on? If the PC is dead, what are office-workers all over the world sitting in front of all day while they work? The reason people aren’t buying new PCs isn’t that they don’t need a PC. It’s that, for the most part, they’re getting along just fine with the one they already have.

In the past, you had to replace your computer every few years or else it would become hopelessly bogged down trying to deal with the latest desktop applications, operating systems, and Internet technologies. But thanks to Moore’s Law, your average PC’s processing power now exceeds most people’s daily needs by a healthy margin. Meanwhile, the rise of the cloud has reduced the need for extra memory. And as ZDNet’s Simon Bisson explains in depth, a strategic shift by Microsoft in recent years has meant that you no longer need to buy a new machine in order to take advantage of each new operating system. The result is that PCs have become more durable than smartphones and tablets, which are still puny enough in their powers that you have to upgrade them regularly.

PC makers probably didn’t mean for that to happen, but there you have it. They’re a victim of unplanned non-obsolescence.

Joseph Cannon has also weighed in on the rumored death of the PC.

…the makers of desktop computers and laptops must learn that today’s machines have become really, really good — better than most people need. They do not require replacement every few years. Maybe once a decade. When you buy a high-quality raincoat, paintbrush, coffee table or carpet, you’re investing in something built to last. So too, now, with computers.

Here’s another reason PC sales have slowed: Windows 8 blows like a tornado and sucks like a black hole.

I’m not even that wild about Windows 7 myself.

Have you noticed I’m avoiding the political news this morning? I’m still flummoxed by James Carville’s comments yesterday on Morning Joe about President Obama’s priorities (courtesy of Talking Points Memo).

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Carville said he thinks Obama relishes the commendation he’s received from deficit hawks like New York Times columnist David Brooks and host Joe Scarborough. Asked by co-host Mike Barnicle how the President will respond to the outrage from the left-wing of the Democratic Party, Carville was blunt.

“I think he likes that,” Carville said. “I don’t think he’s upset. He got a very favorable Washington Post editorial. ‘Morning Joe,’ very favorable commentary right here. I guarantee you if he’s up watching this right now. Got a good David Brooks column. He’s kind of excited this morning. This is kind of important to him.”

Folks at DailyKos interpreted this as Carville agreeing with Obama (see comments and prepare for some Hillary hate as well). I don’t think so. I think Carville sees this as idiotic. He doesn’t much care for Obama, and he’s outing the president as a pathetic media suckup.

The sad thing is that I believe Carville. I really think Obama is completely so much in thrall to the DC elite that he’s willing to hurt his own reputation in order to please them. Obama is the opposite of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt reveled in insulting the establishment, especially the bankers. Obama releases a draconian austerity budget, celebrates the reviews from the Washington Post and David Brooks, and the next day he meets with Wall Street criminals Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, among others.

I need to work out a new psychological profile of Barack Obama. What is his deal anyway? During the 2012 campaign, he began to talk like a liberal and a populist. The more he got out with real people, the more he seemed to be able to empathize with them a little bit. But as soon as he was reelected and went back to the Village bubble, he reverted to form. In the 1970s Obama would have been a Republican and considerably to the right of Richard Nixon.

The fascinating thing is that I think Obama actually understands that his policies are going to hurt the economy. He has said repeatedly that he thinks stimulating the economy is important. He also knows that health care costs are the real problem and that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Back in January, John Boehner told the Wall Street Journal about a “frustrating” conversation he had with Obama.

What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ ” [….]

The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”

Nevertheless, as we have seen, Obama’s budget would increase health care costs, wouldn’t raise much revenue, and would drastically increase income inequality. The only thing that is saving us from Obama’s folly is that Republicans are even nuttier in their obsession with avoiding tax increases on rich people.

There has to be a psychological explanation for Obama’s obsession with trying to win over people who hate and despise him and will never like him no matter what he does. I assume it at least partially goes back to his childhood and being abandoned by both of his parents. Obama even chooses advisers who will convince him to advance Republican policies!

At the moment, it looks to me as if Obama has made himself a lame duck with this budget, even if it never gets a vote (and it probably won’t). Democratic candidates will have to distance themselves from him if they want to be elected or reelected. Why would he do that to himself? And I reject the idea that he’s just evil incarnate as some people who drop in here occasionally seem to think.

I’m sure Obama must care about his legacy, but somehow he still can’t screw up the courage to buck the establishment that really doesn’t like and and never will. As of now, it looks like he could go down in history as a very bad President–maybe even as bad as George W. Bush. But we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out over the next few years.

Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough. I know this is a strange post, but it’s all I’ve got this morning. What’s on your mind today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a great weekend!


James Carville’s Advice for the President: “Fire. Indict. Fight.”

Earth to Obama: Time to Panic!

Commenter Janicen linked to this article by James Carville on the morning thread, but I thought it deserved a post. Carville’s advice sounds a lot like what I’d expect Hillary or Bill Clinton to say to Obama if they had the opportunity.

In his piece at CNN.com, Carville says things are not going well, it’s time for Obama to panic! It’s time for the President to completely change course! Carville:

Today I was mulling over election results from New York and Nevada while thinking about that very question. What should the White House do now? One word came to mind: Panic.

We are far past sending out talking points. Do not attempt to dumb it down. We cannot stand any more explanations. Have you talked to any Democratic senators lately? I have. It’s pretty damn clear they are not happy campers.

Carville thinks Obama should fire some of his advisers immediately–in fact he recommends firing a lot of people.

Mr. President, your hinge of fate must turn. Bill Clinton fired many people in 1994 and took a lot of heat for it. Reagan fired most of his campaign staff in 1980. Republicans historically fired their own speaker, Newt Gingrich. Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. For God’s sake, why are we still looking at the same political and economic advisers that got us into this mess? It’s not working.

I would add that maybe Obama should find some economic advisers who actually know something about economics, and then try listening to them.

Carville further suggests that Obama’s Justice Department should get busy indicting the corporate malefactors who caused the economic crisis that is hurting the middle- and working-class voters who will decide the next presidential election.

Good luck with that. I doubt if Obama will turn on his corporate masters, even if it means losing in 2012.

Next Carville says Obama should start “mak[ing] a case like a Democrat.” Good luck with that one too. I don’t think Obama is capable of acting like a Democrat. But I’d love to be proven wrong.

Finally, Carville says that Obama needs to

Stick to your rationale for what has happened and what is going to happen under your leadership. You must carry this through until the election (never say that things are improving because evidently they are not).

And to sum it all up, Carville sounds the alarm about what we’ll be facing if Obama doesn’t wake up and smell the failed presidency:

As I watch the Republican debates, I realize that we are on the brink of a crazy person running our nation. I sit in front of the television and shudder at the thought of one of these creationism-loving, global-warming-denying, immigration-bashing, Social-Security-cutting, clean-air-hating, mortality-fascinated, Wall-Street-protecting Republicans running my country.

The course we are on is not working. The hour is late, and the need is great. Fire. Indict. Fight.

If only Obama would listen … but I’m not holding my breath.


Friday Morning Reads

Well, it looks like I’m in a tropical storm warning right now. I’m just hoping the electricity stays on as TD 13 becomes TS Lee when it drifts around and comes on shore some time on Saturday.  I’m also hoping Hurricane Katia stays a fish storm but that’s looking less likely at the moment.  Lot’s of us may get flooded yet again.  I’m just hoping we can go get NJ Governor Chris Christie to go beat up Eric Cantor in the interim.  Poor Vermont looks like it needs a lot of help right now!  We’re expected to get rain that may fall at 2-3 inches an hour.  I’m not sure if our pumps can handle that; especially the crappy ones the Corps bought from Jeb Bush that have been problematic since they were installed.

So, it’s nice to see that the FED has decided that Goldman Sachs is now under its jurisdiction and is ordering it to review its foreclosure practices of a former subsidiary.  So many heads should roll over the subprime mortgage market mess and so few have to date.  The Fed’s a pretty aggressive regulator when it feels some institution is in its charter.  It’s good to see the charter is extending beyond commercial banks and thrifts now that the cheap lending has been extended to other financial institutions too.  They take the truth-in-lending laws very seriously.

The Federal Reserve ordered Goldman Sachs Group Inc to hire a consultant to review practices of a former mortgage subsidiary on Thursday and said it plans to assess a monetary penalty for wrongful foreclosures.

The Fed’s crackdown sent Goldman shares down 3.5 percent on Thursday, even as the bank announced that it had completed the sale of Litton Loan Servicing LP, the mortgage-servicing business at the heart of its foreclosure problems.

Litton’s regulatory troubles stem largely from the practice of “robosigning,” in which bank employees signed foreclosure documents without reviewing case files as required by law.

Many large banks, including Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup Inc, have been targets of probes by state and federal regulators over the same issue, in the clean-up after a world financial crisis triggered in large part by bad mortgages in the United States and bonds backed by those loans.

The Fed cited “a pattern of misconduct and negligence” at Litton in announcing its enforcement action against Goldman.

The Economist has been having a reader debate on the necessity of Fiscal stimulus for the US.  The Hell, Yes! vote appears to have it.  The comments are about as interesting as the two economists debating the motion.

The American economy has remained extremely weak since officially leaving recession in mid-2009. The unemployment rate has barely fallen. Recent figures suggest GDP grew at less than a 1% annualised rate through the first half of the year and the odds of a return to recession have risen. The headwinds facing the economy are considerable: the private sector is still trying to reduce the burden of debt it is carrying from the pre-crisis boom years. House prices are still in the doldrums and mortgage credit is hard to get. State and local governments, which are required to balance their budgets, have been forced to cut spending, workers and hours to cope with falling tax collections. Many argue that in such a situation, the federal government is the only entity left that can provide a boost to overall demand and keep the economy from slipping back into recession or prolonged stagnation. At present, however, federal fiscal policy is scheduled to do the opposite: at the end of this year, a temporary payroll tax cut and enhanced jobless benefits expire.

George Stephanopoulos writes about  James Carville who told him that the White House was “out of bounds” when it asked for time to speak to Congress at nearly the same time NBC broadcasts a Republican Presidential Candidate Debate.

“I do think this is a really big debate and I think the White House was out of bounds…in trying to schedule a speech during a debate,” Carville said on “GMA.”

This will be Gov. Rick Perry’s first debate, and as Carville said this morning the stakes are high.

“Given a choice between watching a debate and the speech I would have watched the debate and I’m not even a Republican or even close to being a Republican,” he said, adding it will be a “barn burner.”

The administration agreed to move the speech to Thursday- possibly competing with the kick off of the NFL season instead. The White House has been touting this jobs plan telling ABC News that he will propose tax relief, infrastructure investment and assistance for the long term unemployed.

Obama has received advice from both sides with some arguing for an ambitious proposal and others recommending finding middle ground.

Carville, an ABC News consultant, told me it doesn’t matter what Obama proposes, it won’t get through Congress.

The President’s speech is supposed to help him with terrible polls, including one from Rasmussen that shows him currently behind Rick Perry.

For the first time this year, Texas Governor Rick Perry leads President Obama in a national Election 2012 survey. Other Republican candidates trail the president by single digits.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows Perry picking up 44% of the vote while the president earns support from 41%. Given the margin of sampling error (+/- 3 percentage points) and the fact that the election is more than a year away, the race between the two men is effectively a toss-up. Just over a week ago, the president held a three-point advantage over Perry. (To see question wording, click here.)

Perry leads by nine among men but trails by five among women. Among voters under 30, the president leads while Perry has the edge among those over 30. The president leads Perry by 16 percentage points among union members while Perry leads among those who do not belong to a union.

I’d vote for a dead dog before I’d vote for Rick Perry, just in case you’re wondering where I stand.  A Quinnipiac University poll also shows the President’s approval on handling of unemployment and the economy is still bleak.

President Barack Obama’s overall job approval rating has sunk to an all-time low, as American voters disapprove 52 – 42 percent, compared to 47 – 46 percent approval in July, and among whites and men his approval has dropped into the 30s, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Congressional leaders rate even lower in the public eye.
Voters nationwide are more pessimistic about the economy, saying 49 – 11 percent that it is getting worse rather than improving, a precipitous drop from a July 14 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University, in which voters said 32 – 23 percent the economy was worsening and January 18, when voters said 36 – 20 percent it was improving.
The economy is in a recession, 76 percent of voters say, and is not beginning to recover, voters say 68 – 28 percent.
Voters trust Obama more than congressional Republicans to handle the economy 44 – 41 percent, but they say 46 – 42 percent that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would do a better job than Obama. They are split 43 – 41 percent on whether Obama or GOP candidate Rick Perry would be better on the economy.

This should be an interesting political season.  My guess is that it’s going to get very ugly.

There’s some good news from NPR about the Obama Justice Department.  It seems they have made a priority of keeping abortion providers and women seeking abortions safe from violence and protestor harassment.

The Obama Justice Department has been taking a more aggressive approach against people who block access to abortion clinics, using a 1994 law to bring cases in greater numbers than its predecessor.

The numbers are most stark when it comes to civil lawsuits, which seek to create buffer zones around clinic entrances for people who have blocked access in the past. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has filed eight civil cases since the start of the Obama administration. That’s a big increase over the George W. Bush years, when one case was filed in eight years.

“There’s been a substantial difference between this administration and the one immediately prior,” says Ellen Gertzog, director of security for Planned Parenthood. “From where we sit, there’s currently much greater willingness to carefully assess incidents when they occur and to proceed with legal action when appropriate.”

Over the past two years, the Justice Department and FBI have been meeting with abortion-rights groups and medical providers all over the country to explain their work and talk about a federal task force designed to prevent violence against doctors and women seeking abortions.

The National Abortion Federation, which tracks violent incidents, says major violence is down since the 2009 murder of abortion doctor George Tiller. The man who killed Tiller has been convicted, and a federal grand jury is investigating the conduct of his alleged accomplices.

But Sharon Levin, a vice president at the National Abortion Federation, says there are still some signs of trouble, including two incidents this summer involving Molotov cocktails and the arrest of a man who told police he wanted to shoot two abortion doctors in Wisconsin.

So I admit to being totally fascinated by Stonehenge. I wanted to share this Tomb find in the place where the famous stones were most likely quarried.

The tomb for the original builders of Stonehenge could have been unearthed by an excavation at a site in Wales.

The Carn Menyn site in the Preseli Hills is where the bluestones used to construct the first stone phase of the henge were quarried in 2300BC.

Organic material from the site will be radiocarbon dated, but it is thought any remains have already been removed.

Archaeologists believe this could prove a conclusive link between the site and Stonehenge.

The remains of a ceremonial monument were found with a bank that appears to have a pair of standing stones embedded in it.

The bluestones at the earliest phase of Stonehenge – also set in pairs – give a direct architectural link from the iconic site to this newly discovered henge-like monument in Wales.

Site in Wales of Neolithic tomb The central site had already been disturbed so archaeologists chose to excavate around the edges

The tomb, which is a passage cairn – a style typical of Neolithic burial monument – was placed over this henge.

How cool is that?

So, that’s my contribution for the day.  Hopefully, I’ll be on line through the weekend but if you don’t see me, you’ll know what happened!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday: Beyonce, Bridesmaids, and Big Business

Morning, news junkies…hope you are off to a nice, relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I’m going to keep my two cents brief this Saturday, so grab a cup of whatever and let’s go!

Is Beyonce’s New Video Feminist?

I saw this item on AlterNet the other day and found the discussion in the comments interesting. I have to say, the author of the article itself didn’t put forward very compelling arguments for her stiletto feminism (and I love my purple suede stilettos), but her piece did alert me to NineteenPercent’s response to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls),” which I recommend checking out.

What ‘Bridesmaids’ Can Tell Us about Small Businesses and the Recession

New Deal 2.0’s Mike Konczal uses Kristin Wiig’s storyline–her character loses a bakery she started during the recession–as a teachable moment on Keynesian economics, complete with nifty graphs. He concludes that “Full employment is the friend of new business owners. It would be great if either of our political parties would emphasize that in a time of 9% unemployment.” Amen to that. (I did get to see Bridesmaids last weekend, btw. It lived up to the hype!)

Why the Rich Love High Unemployment

Mark Provost’s guest post at George Washington’s blog, outlining precisely why neither of our political parties is emphasizing full employment. (See also lambert at corrente… DISemployment: Letting the Rattner out of the bag.)

Judge strikes down corporate donations ban

The oligarchy racks up another win, just in time for 2012. As ThinkProgress noted yesterday:

Today’s decision extends beyond the egregious Citizen United decision because Citizens United only permits corporations to run their own ads supporting a candidate or otherwise act independently of a candidate’s campaign. Cacheris’ opinion would also allow the Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries, for instance, to contribute directly to political campaigns.

Chernobyl Times Ten: Fukushima and the Radioactive Sea

Via Counterpunch. Highly depressing but important read from Harvey Wasserman:

“When it comes to the oceans, says Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceonographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl.”

The greatest living surrealist has left the planet“…RIP Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

I enjoyed this brief but thoughtful blog post on Leonora Carrington’s passing, and the LA Times blog posted two neat photos–one of a bronze sculpture by Carrington exhibited along Mexico City’s Avenue Reforma in 2008, and another of Carrington celebrating her ninety-fourth birthday earlier this year. Also from an essay last year by art historian Alan Foljambe:

Rather than rebelling in a violent way against those who would control her, Carrington creates a parallel reality in her paintings in which, represented by animals and female deities, she is in a position of strength where she is not in danger of being used as a vehicle for the schemes or motives of someone else. Rather than confronting reality and attempting to overcome it, Carrington retreats from the struggle and creates another reality in which she feels more at home.

The gendered expressions of mental illness and violence

This is a topic that I think relates back to much of the dynamics underlying gender politics. Teaser from Historiann’s commentary:

There are of course seriously mentally ill women who suffer from similar paranoid delusions and fixate on individuals the way the Tucson gunman did. For example, a story in this week’s The New Yorker by Rachel Aviv (sorry–subscription wall) offers a nuanced, tragic description of the progress of mental illness in a woman whose disease sounds quite similar to Loughner’s. Yet, she didn’t pick up guns and kill a crowd of people. Instead, she retreated into a New Hampshire farmhouse and slowly starved to death.

James Carville: Obama is looking like a 2008 Republican

In 1992, Bill Clinton famously proclaimed himself to be an Eisenhower Republican. By that measure, I’d say President Obama is a pre-2008 John McCain Republican.

But this much is sure: The policies of the eventual Republican nominee, that is, anybody left running for it by the time of the vote, will be right in line with those of Sarah Palin. It’s pretty remarkable that the next election is going to boil down to a competition between the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and his vice presidential nominee.

It’s not that Obama is a socialist born somewhere other than Hawaii, or that he possesses a Kenyan anti-colonial mentality — but that some Republican needs to stand up and say, with some legitimacy, that Obama is taking all of the GOP’s ideas.

Well, there you have it. NOTA 2012.

How Cornel West Did the Obamites a Favor

BAR’s Glen Ford hits it out of the park once again. Excellent analysis of the situation. I myself have always preferred to focus more on Obama-the-politician and leave Obama-the-man for his family and friends to concern themselves with.

Hillaryland

  • Dipnote: Welcome to Shelbyville (Welcome to Shelbyville airs this week on PBS; check your local listings. It’s also being streamed for free through May 31st on PBS’s website.)

Just a quick geek link before I wrap up…NYT: Evidence of Water Beneath Moon’s Stony Face

…throwing a wrench into the Giant Impact hypothesis.

This Day in History (May 28)

Pioneering woman scholar Abby Leach was born in 1855:

In the 1870s, there were many more opportunities for women in education than there had been a decade earlier–Vassar, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley had been all been founded by 1878. Still, the major men’s colleges of the day entertained no thoughts of educating women. Harvard held annual entrance examinations for women in New York City, but they only told the women who took them whether they would have gotten into Harvard were they men. Abigail Leach changed all that, however, when she arrived on the doorstep of three Harvard professors—William W. Goodwin, James B. Greenough, and Francis J. Child—in 1878 and asked them to instruct her in Latin and Greek. The men were so impressed by her courage and persistence that they agreed. Soon they would be impressed by her intellect as well.

Also see Abby Leach vs. Grace Harriet Macurdy.

What’s on your blogging list today?

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Taylor Marsh and Liberal Rapture]


I’m with him …

parrell_parang_signalI have to say, I’m with my neighbor James Carville on this one … put a decent health care reform out there and let the Republicans kill it. I’ve said over and over that without a vital public option, it’s neither about the health care or the reform. It’s about the lobbyists and an administration win and I don’t think we should go for it. Carville thinks it would send a good signal to the country about how little Republicans are willing to come to the table in the name of what’s good for American and bi-partisanship if they fight health care reform vehemently. Let them show themselves as obstructionists while we trot out people bankrupted by underinsurance, folks who lost relatives to insurance companies who ration health care, and people who can’t even access the basics enough to be treated for the most treatable of diseases. Let them all be seen on TV saying no well baby care and prenatal care to their fetus fetishists.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Democratic strategist James Carville became the first leading Democrat to suggest publicly that there might be political advantage in letting Republicans “kill” health care.

“Put a bill out there, make them filibuster it, make them be what they are, the party of no,” Carville said. “Let them kill it. Let them kill it with the interest group money, then run against them. That’s what we ought to do.”

This weekend’s comments by White House officials simply acknowledged the long-obvious reality that the idea of a government-run insurance plan was partly a bargaining chip.

Bargaining chip? WTF? What exactly do we get if the public option is off the table?

Krugman says the public option may be a signal on Obama’s trustworthiness that not every one is seeing. Okay, finance/economics lesson time again. Signaling theory is based on the idea that that market reacts rationally to publicly available information. So, for example, if I want to signal that my company is worth more than the average company, I want to find a way to signal that to the market I’m superior so they’ll run up my stock price to recognize me as a superior company. Then I can rake in bonuses and capital gains. I could borrow money in the commercial market, for example, that gives me a Aaa rating. This signals raters who are assumed to be in the know find my company to be a good bet compared to others that they rate lower. This signal should push up my stock price.

So what kind of signal do we have here? Well, Krugman argues that the public option is one of the ways Obama can ‘signal’ that he’s still a progressive democrat and he’s signaling that he’s a sell out without realizing it. He points out that the public option debate has turn into a signal on who should buy stock in what Obama says. Signals are based on the market knowing what actions can be trusted, however. You have to trust that some one who gives a company the Aaa rating really has some inside proprietary information and believe they are a reliable, trustworthy source of rating. Krugman says the Obama administration is sending out bad signals and doesn’t even realize it.

If progressives had real trust in Obama’s commitment to doing the right thing, the administration would have broad leeway to do deals. But the president doesn’t command that kind of trust.

Partly it’s a matter of style — as many people have noted, he has been weirdly reluctant to make the moral case for universal care, weirdly unable to show passion on the issue, weirdly diffident even about the blatant lies from the right. Partly it’s a spillover from his other policies: by appointing an economic team that’s Rubin redux, by taking such a kindly attitude to the banks, he has squandered a lot of progressive enthusiasm.

Add in the dealmaking as part of the health care process itself, and progressives can be forgiven for having the impression that Obama (a) takes them for granted (b) is way too easily rolled by the other side.

So progressives have their backs up over one provision in health care reform that’s easy to monitor. The public option has become not so much a symbol as a signal, a test of whether Obama is really the progressive activists thought they were backing.

And the bizarre thing is that the administration doesn’t seem to get that.

So, who’s signals should we trust? Carville? Krugman? Obama?

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