Monday, October 31, 2011

Medicaid is What's Squeezing College Tuition

So says Sarah Kliff.

Of course, as state tax revenues go down, choices will have to be made on what to fund. It appears that federal requirements on Medicaid make it necessary for states to choose to fund Medicaid if they want to keep the program going, and education budgets have less of this sort of incentive, so they get cut first.

But why is it a choice between supporting medical care for the poorest people and supporting affordable higher education? Because tax revenues are not sufficient to maintain states with liberty for all. And that's because of the obsession with no taxes on the part of all too many who can well afford to pay their share of keeping things going.

The Science Establishment Strikes Back

I still read the dead-tree version of some magazines. I like to have to page through a variety of things and consciously make the decision not to read stuff that I frequently wind up reading anyway.

Scientific American is one of those dead-tree favorites. This month, they have a couple of quotes in a series they call "Suspect Science." One is Michelle Bachmann's concern trolling about the papillomavirus vaccine and the other is Rick Perry's quote about evolution being "a scientific theory that's not settled yet."

Both are identified as Republican candidates for the presidential nomination.

Chemical and Engineering News, the newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, has an article titled "Alleged Science Manipulation" in its October 24 issue. Right in the first paragraph:
Some Republicans in the House of Representatives are now saying that EPA may be manipulating scientific assessments of the hazards of chemicals to sway pollution regulations.
The article is pretty much straight reporting, but it makes clear that the hearing being reported on is based on Republican concerns.

I don't recall seeing such explicit identification of party in these publications with reference to scientific issues before. Both have editorial columns that strongly support science-based issues like evolution and anthropogenic global warming; Scientific American's letters column is small and tends toward scientific issues. The letters column in C&E News allows longer and more letters which frequently take issue with AGW in particular.

It will be interesting to see the reactions. Probably some at their websites; I'll report if I check them out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 27, 2011

More on the Occupy Movement.

Glenn Greenwald

Some thoughts on social justice.

The police attack on Occupy Oakland. And some police departments have been asking YouTube to take down those nasty videos that show police brutality, but Google has politely declined. The times, they are a'changing.

Dahlia Lithwick on why the pundit class doesn't get it.

Changing the subject slightly, is this the kind of person that we want advising our president on foreign policy?

Good news: Jack the cat, who was lost for two months in the American Airlines baggage spaces at Kennedy Airport in New York, has been found.

And a good idea: build community health clinics.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Always Russia

I've been reading a lot of Russian history lately, and there were two articles today that fell right in line with some of the recurring themes of that history.

Russia might not be pleased for the United States to leave Afghanistan. It's hard for us Americans to understand just how difficult it is to maintain a large country that has boundaries with not-necessarily-friendly countries around it. So if America is willing to distract the troublemakers in one of them, so much the better for the Russians.

That continental geography has been an enormous influence in Russian history and thinking. The Russians set out in the nineteenth century to bring the natives to the east under control, as did the Americans to the west. But the Russian spaces are much more immense and climatically unforgiving. It's the kind of thing that seems logical to secure the borders but turns out to have its own kind of revenge. On the south, Russia has a bunch of people, many of them Muslim, who don't want to be part of the empire. To the east, they have cold lands that are mostly good for pumping oil and harvesting lumber when you can avoid being mired in the mud.

But that immense stretch of geography, with its natural resources, is the basis for a strong country if those pluses can overcome the drain of building infrastructure, dealing with the locals, and defending against invasions. Russia, as the Soviet Union, became a great power in the last half of the twentieth century via a heavy military buildup, including nuclear weapons. Russia has always wanted recognition of its resources and, all too often, potential capabilities, and never quite received that recognition the way it wanted.

So one might think that John Boehner is an astute student of history in wanting to use that recognition as a lever with Russia. But I suspect that his inclination is more a reflexively Cold War thing, or just that feeling that so many conservatives seem to have that bestowal of recognition is a boon that America grants only to the deserving, and we decide who's deserving. Just as stereotyped and counterproductive as that Russian longing for proper recognition.

One Reason College Tuition Is So High

Today's good news on the unilateral presidential action front is that paying back college loans will be less onerous. It's all over the blogosphere, but here are (rather similar) selections from Kevin Drum and Brad Plumer.

In those two links, they're talking about the decrease in wages of college-educated people making paying off those loans more difficult. That's true, and there's plenty that can be said about why those wages are decreasing, although still better than those of the non-college-degreed.

But I would like to point out one factor that I haven't seen said nearly enough, or hardly at all. Because of "tax revolts," starting with California's Proposition 13 in 1978, the taxes that support state endeavors have been going down. One of those endeavors used to be higher education, in the form of state university systems. Back before Prop 13, people had the quaint idea that making education easily available to all was a general good that helped society by lowering the crime rate and upping the innovation and business-hiring rate and stuff like that. But that idea has been superseded by the much more logical notion that my money is mine, and it's not going to support someone else's kids. So let those universities filled with slackers run as profit-making institutions!

So, as tax support is taken away, tuition at state institutions of higher learning has been approaching that of private institutions. And the students need loans to get themselves through. It might also be noted that the banksters were making a bunch of gummint-supported money off that fact until recently. I guess that was more of a societal good than broadly available education.

Bits and Pieces - October 26, 2011

Ian Fraser: The dukes and earls in America’s Great Tower of Bulls**t are starting to blink a little.

Matt Taibbi: OWS's Beef: Wall Street Isn't Winning – It's Cheating.

The phone that Murdoch's News of the World used for hacking has been found, with call records.

A critique of the Libyan intervention and Responsibility to Protect, from Eric Posner. I've been concerned about some of the arguments going around in favor of Responsibility to Protect, but haven't had enough time to work them up into respectable blog posts. Posner lays out some of my concerns, although I don't agree with everything he says. I'll also note that it looks to me like different advocates of R2P are saying different things, and opponents respond to some points from some advocates, so the arguments tend to run all over the map. While I may not agree with all of Posner's views, I think that the ground he's arguing on is the one that will ultimately yield the most usable insights.

Steve Clemons would like to know how to spell, in English, the name of that Libyan dictator. So would I.

Added Later:
Stephen Walt, as usual, has some very sensible things to say about America's place in the world. It's not all as pessimistic as the title. Read to the end.

Where are all the big players in the financial meltdown? Not in jail.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 25, 2011

I didn't know they still make Necco Wafers. The article is right - the flavors were bizarre, but their shape and consistency were fun.

Here's an explanation of complexity in social systems. A lot of what it says describes "complex systems" more generally. Unfortunately, it's at a fairly high comprehension level, so most of the people who blather on about complex systems and emergent properties will continue to do so without having any idea what they're talking about.

I've completed a longish series of five posts (first one here, with links to the rest) over at Nuclear Diner on Representative Ed Markey's (D-MA) suggestion that the Super Committee remove $200 billion from the nuclear weapons budget over the next ten years. First I try to figure out some of the numbers and more or less conclude that everyone has their own set, and then I work through some of the politics. Bottom line: it probably won't happen, and it could wind up removing funds from programs Markey and his supporters like.

OTOH, Stan Collender thinks there's a good chance the Super Committee won't agree on anything and that it won't matter. And Sarah Kliff has a chart.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Frederick Kagan thinks Obama's withdrawal from Iraq constitutes "abandoning" Iraq. Matt Duss calls him out:
Interestingly, Kagan doesn’t mention that this "retreat" is being done in accordance with an agreement that the previous administration signed with the Iraqi government. Even more interestingly, when that agreement was signed, Fred Kagan himself hailed it as a great U.S. success.
Again, why does anyone continue to listen to these people? It really just boggles my mind. (via)

VIPR: Coming Soon To a Highway Near You

The TSA decided they didn't have enough to do at airports, so now they are going to make our highways safe from the terrists!

Conor Friedersdorf
James Fallows

It's hard to believe how much autonomy this agency was given in its enabling legislation. Or is it just grabbing for power?

And who thought that VIPR was a good name to sell the public on random searches of their cars at highway stops?

Should I ask about how the Fourth Amendment, the one on the United States Constitution, fits into this? Probably not.

Update: You may have suspected that the TSA screeners get off on searching through your smelly underwear. Here's confirmation.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ol' Tommy Waits and a Musical Bucket o' Nothin'

Given the insistently improvised and homemade texture of his music, it is tempting to think Waits spends a good deal of his time out here in the sticks tinkering with farm machinery in his yard or fixing his truck. One inspiration for his music is Harry Partch, an American pioneer of the 40s and 50s, who not only invented his own instruments but created his own notation too. Waits's music still allows the possibility of "hitting a cabinet hard with a two by four" just for the hell of it. He distrusts digitalisation.
"Music has generally involved a lot of awkward contraptions, a certain amount of heavy lifting," he says. "The idea that it will just be a sort of vapour that you listen to out of speakers the size of a dime alarms me. It's like injecting yourself. Or eating alone." He is, he says, equally wary of the ease of search and shuffle.
"They have removed the struggle to find anything. And therefore there is no genuine sense of discovery. Struggle is the first thing we know getting along the birth canal, out in the world. It's pretty basic. Book store owners and record store owners used to be oracles, in that way; you'd go in this dusty old place and they might point you toward something that would change your life. All that's gone." [The Guardian]

Sumatran Etlingera

 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Young Robin

Bits and Pieces - We Know Better Edition

Blogging, and punditry in general, is usually conducted in pleasant surroundings, hence the plethora of jokes about finding something funny and ruining one's keyboard by spitting out coffee as one laughs.

So we have today a plethora (nice pundit word, no?) of commentary on what looks like the summary execution of Muammar al-Qaddafi (plethora of commentary about spelling of name deleted). Hey, I have to obey the traffic light at the bottom of the hill, don't I? Rule of law! Blake Hounshell provides another view. No it's not a good thing that it happened this way, but how much does that really matter? As James Lindsay points out, it's still tough going for Libya until it has a stable government.

Physicists are the concern trolls (yes, another word for pundit!) of the scientific world. Nobody can do anything quite as well as they can. All other science derives from physics, it is true in a rather limited way. But, because many approximations lie between the mathematics of physics and dealing with real chemicals in a test tube, never mind animal physiology or the global circulation system, a physicist cannot simply, overnight, master one of those other sciences. Far too many physicists don't notice this detail.

One of them, Richard Mueller, was convinced that he knew better than those silly climate scientists with their complicated computer models based on too many assumptions. So he decided to rederive climate science. He recently announced his results: the silly climate scientists had it right. This is a great disappointment to the claque of know-nothings who hitched their wagons to his physics star. But I'm sure they'll be able to find someone else to support their denial. I guess we can give Mueller credit for being enough of a scientist to admit he was wrong.

In a somewhat related development, woman finds math relatively easy.

Also, hats are being tipped across the blogosphere to the New York Times and Washington Post who finally figured out that something called politics is being manipulated in the United States Senate by a group called the Republicans.

Another of my own personal punditical I-told-you-so's on community organizing. Of course it's lead from behind!

Crabby Friday, I know. I'll see if I can find a nice photo for later, or perhaps Helmut has some fruit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 19, 2011

Today is the 230th anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown, the battle that assured American victory in the Revolution.

Iran is claiming that one of the principals in the convoluted plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States via a Mexican drug ring is a member of the MEK, an Iranian organization that opposes the government but has some aspects of a cult as well. The MEK has been a favorite of neoconservatives. Juan Cole on what this might mean. More, and a warning that this may not be any more accurate than any other explanation of this plot.

Most Americans support Occupy Wall Street.

For those who want to pick nits, why OWS is not generally anti-corporate, just anti the financial industry.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is considering the intertwining and conflict between the anti-slavery and women's rights movements. I really like the way he is thinking this out for all of us to see. This is the second post in that series.

XKCD solves a mystery.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain. He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships.
From President Barack Obama's remarks at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial. Read the whole thing; it's a really good speech, reminding us of how change takes place.

I was wondering why we didn't hear more of it from the media, and then I read this.

Bits and Pieces - More Occupy Edition

Canadian central banker endorses Occupy Wall Street.

The view from Estonia.

Occupy Wall Street's Top Priority Should Be to Kill the Bush Tax Cuts.


Occupy Philosophy.

Corporations have no core dedication to fundamental human values.

Political disobedience.

h/t to Crooked Timber, from where some of the above links have come.

More lies from Andrew Breitbart.

Mas:
Goldman Sachs supports the 99%.

Krugman on the kvetchocracy.

We are the 1%. We Stand with the 99%.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

El Silbato de Perro

At two campaign rallies in Tennessee on Saturday night, the Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said that part of his immigration policy would be to build an electrified fence on the country’s border with Mexico that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally.
But by Sunday morning, in a dramatic change of tone, Mr. Cain, a former restaurant executive, said he was only kidding. “That’s a joke,” Mr. Cain told the journalist David Gregory during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he was asked about the electrified fence.
"That’s not a serious plan. I’ve also said America needs to get a sense of humor.” (NYT
I wonder.... When Republicans hang out together during down time, do they crack lots of "jokes" about various ways to kill people, particularly the poor and downtrodden? It sure seems to be a popular way for Republicans to publicly express their sense of humor.

Note that, with Cain, the usual dog whistles are now mostly translated into Spanish.

Finland to host 2012 conference on WMD free zone in Middle East

This is a really important development. A few weeks back, concern was being expressed about the difficulty of selecting a venue and facilitator for a promised 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Now Finland has been chosen as the host, and their Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava will be facilitator.

For many years, the idea of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East has been raised in the United Nations by the Arab states in such a way as to use it as a stick to beat Israel with. But in 2010, the United States and Britain backed an initiative for a WMD-free zone. One of the differences from the earlier version is that some of the Middle East states, like Syria, are believed to have chemical weapons programs. A conference was scheduled for 2012.

Cross-posted from Nuclear Diner.

Simply getting the parties to agree on a venue and facilitator is one more step forward. The events referred to as "Arab Spring" have complicated the planning. Egypt, which is far from having a stable government that responds to the concerns of the protesters, has traditionally been an advocate for such a conference.

Laajava says the timeframe is "broadly 2012," which may have to do with the unrest and changes of governments in the Arab world.

This conference won't come up with a definitive proposal for a Middle East WMD-Free Zone. The best it is likely to do is to agree on some procedural issues and perhaps a statement of goals or general principles and that there will be another conference. But that is more than has been achieved before.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 14, 2011

Mostly Occupy stuff, but scroll to the bottom for stuff about spies and the sins of the Murdoch empire.

One of the 1% says Occupy has it right.

Superheroes and other comic characters as the 1%.

From the world media.

Looks like Mayor Bloomberg backed off from a confrontation.

Juan Cole provides some numbers.

There's a lot in this piece that reminds me of the sixties. I've been feeling really happy to see young people getting out and doing this.

Long interview with the son of William Colby, master spy.

And it appears that Paul Krugman is the only person commenting on the latest Murdoch wrongdoing, which I noted the other day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bits and Pieces - Occupy Edition




From the Atlantic: #OWS: What the Media Can't See About America's First Web-Era Movement

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone: My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters

After a TNR editorial panning the movement, John Judis and Jonathan Cohn come out in support.

Ezra Klein and co-workers have been positive all along, and Suzy Khimm now reports that the movement is spreading to London.

I've stolen the Oliphant cartoon from Balloon Juice, who probably stole it from Oliphant himself. Never mind, there's no doubt who penned it. BJ is also covering the movement.

A big pile of charts on why the protesters are angry, from Henry Blodget.

And I know that the issues are mostly economic, but I can't help but think that the aura of not-so-competent law enforcement that nevertheless (or because of?) insists on maximum power contributes to the uneasiness. Think TSA, and, yeah, this starts to overlap with that alleged Iranian plot, or at least the way the Department of Justice rolled it out, or strip searches for traffic tickets. It was humiliation that caused Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi to set himself on fire.

Update (already):
OWS is now twice as popular as the Tea Party. There's been a spate of articles this week looking at the similarities between the two. It occurred to me this morning that the big difference is the hate promulgated by the Tea Party and the much more positive affect of OWS. Most people aren't haters.

More (Sort Of) on that Iranian Plot (Sort Of)

I'm not following this story closely, meaning that I am spending no time at all trying to figure out who said what to whom when or the various degrees of plausibility of the various claims. But I am following some people who are doing that, and I have drawn the conclusion that there is a boatload of stupid in this case, possibly shared by all sides.

That is not to say that I don't believe that the Iranian government would do something so stupid as to engage a struggling used-car dealer to contact the Mexican Zeta gang or that I don't believe that the FBI would get taken by a probably-not-reformed-at-all drug runner. That's where the boatload of stupid comes in. Or boatloads. Recall the plot to kill Fidel Castro with exploding cigars.

In any case, someone tweeted last night to the effect that presumably the government is smart enough to see how improbable the plot is and therefore checked things out fully. The tweet was actually pithier than that.

So here are a couple more commentaries from Juan Cole and Jeffrey Toobin, without any more comment from me than the above.

Update: Lots of linkies here.

And we have to award at least two points for stupid to the government:

Steven Walt says something I've been thinking in connection with that tweet I reported above:
So my advice to Holder & Co. is this: you better show us what you've got, and it had better be good.
If they recognized how absurd this plot sounds and they have really solid evidence, they should have made more of it public in their first announcement.

And, um, FBI, no kidding?
When residents looked for available Wi-Fi networks, names like “FBI Van 1” would pop up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 12, 2011

Today is National Fossil Day!

So let's celebrate trilobozoans!


Making Money the Old Fashioned Way, By Cooking the Books

Gregory Djerejian: This Ain't No Tea Party: A Conservative Defense of Occupy Wall Street

Update: Another scam from the Murdoch empire, this time the Wall Street Journal. They were buying their own papers through an intermediary to boost circulation.

That Iranian Plot (Or Something)

Yesterday the arrest of two men for intending to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the United States was announced. The plot, going through Mexican druglords, sounds improbable. But countries and people do dumb things, so that's not a reason to reject it.

Not much information has been released so far. It's not at all clear, for example, how involved the Iranian government might have been, the possibilities ranging all the way from a rogue drug operation to direction by the Supreme Leader or President Ahmadinejad.

It could also be entrapment by US drug or other agents, a plot cooked up by another group (national or not) to embarrass somebody, or totally made up by the guy who got caught. We won't know until we have answers to these questions, at least.

So it's extremely premature to claim that this has anything at all to do with Iran's nuclear weapons, since we don't know how involved the Iranian government was involved in any of this. But that hasn't stopped at least three commentators (here, here, here) from going there. (I know, the reference to Iran's developing an EMP capability should disqualify it too.)

A question that I haven't seen anywhere is why this came up now. There have been some slightly placatory noises coming out of Iran about its nuclear program, and before other negotiations there have been accusations of Iran on various grounds. Iran also has an election coming up.

It could be that it was just a matter of how things happened. But the FBI and other agencies have made arrests before at times that seemed like they could have been intended to influence negotiations, as with Gennadi Zakharov before Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik in 1986.

Again, is it a coincidence of timing or an attempt to look strong before a negotiation? And, if the latter, how far up does that intention go?

Update: A caution from Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 11, 2011

America: Don't Be Cruel

How Debt Deleveraging Killed the Economy. Long and something of a primer on how easy it can be for the economy to fall into a downward spiral.

Report from Zucotti Park by Jeff Madrick.

Why does Newt Gingrich hate the Constitution?

Russia's Worsening Demographic Crisis

The unsayable beginning to be said: Disarmament talks in the Middle East must include Israel's arsenal.

Nuclear Diner Now Open


A couple of friends and I wanted to make an internet place where people could discuss nuclear issues.

The problem we see with current discussions of nuclear issues is that they are often among the convinced of one thing or another, and that they are often within expert communities. Both have made for a restricted vision of what is possible and how the many problems associated with both nuclear power and nuclear weapons might be solved.

So we hope to open up the discussion at Nuclear Diner. The site contains a number of ways to express your opinion or participate in a discussion. We want both non-experts and experts to contribute. You can read everything at the site except personal profiles without registering, but you need to register to comment.

I will continue to post my political and philosophical ideas here, but most of my nuclear maunderings will be found at Nuclear Diner. I'll occasionally cross-post if I think I've written something particularly good. Right now, I'm liveblogging the Reagan-Gorbachev summit at Reykjavik. It's exciting. Check it out.

The Reykjavik Summit

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the meeting between US President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union's General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two came close to agreeing to eliminate all their nuclear weapons by the year 2000.

Here are Gorbachev's thoughts on that anniversary.

His letter to Reagan suggesting the meeting.

Commentary from Richard Rhodes and Michael Krepon.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 9, 2011

The Obama administration tells us, indirectly, what its legal basis was for killing American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. And what happens when everyone has drones?

The other article everyone's linking to today: Ezra Klein on what President Obama might have done about the finanacial crisis. Bottom line: not much more than what he did. Politics and a frightened electorate are real. His colleague at the WaPo, Steven Perlstein, provides a complementary piece that extends the argument to the Occupy movement. Read 'em both!

The New York Times editorial board, after a bunch of really negative reportorial content, comes around on the Occupy movement.

An attempt is being made to lessen the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

This week will mark twenty-five years since President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev almost agreed on eliminating nuclear weapons by the year 2000 in Reykjavik, Iceland. You will be hearing a lot more about it, from organizations and from me. Stay tuned.

Update: The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Professor Derrick Bell also died this week.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 6, 2011

Paul Krugman comes around on the Occupy movement, and Charles Pierce gives some impressions.

Hard cases make bad law, and, unfortunately, the extremists are driving toward hard cases.

Thirteen ways the Republicans are wrong, from a Republican. There probably are more. Ezra Klein gives you the opportunity to suggest questions for the Republican presidential candidates.

I'm a great Matrix fan, but I don't have time to check this out just now.

It's sad that Steve Jobs has died. He greatly influenced this machine I'm typing on now and many other things. But I tend to agree with Kevin Drum that much of what he did was self-limiting by design. I'm not an Apple person, and it seems to me that where I went off the rails and why I stayed off is consistent with what Kevin says. I walked into an Apple store a few months ago, found everything quite opaque to my intuition and walked out. Plus I never could make my iPod work right. That might be me, but it also suggests some limitations in the Apple approach.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Keeping the Homeland Secure

An interesting mix of directions in homeland security.

There's a blog called Homeland Security Watch. It's been about what you might expect, but I track it to see if there are any interesting (or frightening) trends. Over the last week, the bloggers there seem to be developing some sympathy for Occupy Wall Street.
More than a few commentators have begun to suggest in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the Arab Spring could be followed by an American Fall. As homeland security professionals, we might rightly ask ourselves what this means for us. Which side are we on? Do we stand with the state or the citizens?

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not eager to play the part of the Egyptian Army if Zuccotti Park becomes the new Tahrir Square.
After the out-of-control cop sprayed kettled protesters with pepper spray, I saw something about 100 NYPD officers refusing to act against the protesters. Haven't seen any followup.

More from Homeland Security Watch, not clear if this is sympathetic:
Let’s see, Arab Spring: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Israel, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Western Sahara.

Unemployed people with cell phones, twitter accounts, facebook pages, youtube feeds.

Now there’s a 21st century risk.

I wonder if it is included in the Strategic National Risk Assessment.
The folks over there also seem to have found a paper bag to breathe into on nuclear terrorism. Or perhaps it's Thomas Schelling's credentials that convinced them.

Unfortunately, as that one group of voices seems to be settling back from terrorist-induced panic after only ten years, the Department of Homeland Security seems to be working toward bigger and better things: a full-up security zone all along the Canadian border; making sure that private pilots aren't hiding anything in their flight plans; and the usual TSA assaulting of people who want to fly while prosthetized.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bits and Pieces - October 3, 2011

Ezra Klein and his fellow bloggers are taking note of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Here are some links, an interview with one of initial organizers, and news that other organizations are joining in. Mas. Y mas. You get the idea - follow Ezra's blog on this. Photos from the arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Koch Industries heart Iran. More about the Koch brothers and their empire.

Herman Cain Is No Booker T. Washington. I'm glad to see something good about Booker T. Washington. My aunt gave me a book about him when I was maybe seven, and I was very impressed with his accomplishments. There was something in the book about his religion, too, which I think was more the point that my aunt was trying to make.

Clean Energy Cons: Dozens of Republicans Asked for Clean Energy Grants and Subsidized Loans Before Attacking Them.

Ain't Gonna Study War No More

I have long been of the opinion that the world is becoming less violent. Now some others are joining me.

Steven Pinker has a book coming out on the subject, that I intend to read. Doug Saunders adds some of his thoughts.

Joshua Goldstein has a piece in Foreign Policy pulling together some of the arguments.

I've been reading a lot of history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century lately, the period just before and during the first World War. The system of European monarchy at that time was brutal to the subjects and nonchalant about war. A little squabble with the cousins that just happened to kill hundreds of thousands of people. Daily life was much more brutal: evident poverty, the exploitation of workers, including children, maltreatment of horses in the street. We now find such things unacceptable. Or most of us, those not in the Tea Party or pulling down hundreds of millions of dollars a year, find such things unacceptable.

That's been one of my sources of feeling that the world is becoming less violent. Another is that the potentially world-destroying rivalry between the United States and Russia has ended. There are some on both sides who would like to stoke it up again, but they've been unsuccessful for twenty years now.

There are still wars in progress. Although we're going to have to sort out the legality of drone strikes, they kill a lot fewer people than previous methods of war. There is a horrendous war in the Congo that Americans and Europeans hardly hear about.

We need to become more conscious of this movement away from war, so that we can look at the wars we've still got, the wars that might happen, and why some people still are content with daily brutality and national violence, to see how we can change all that.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Quote of the Day

J.L. Austin asked, “Where and what exactly is the surface of a cat?”