Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Are You Afraid Yet?

As part of my newly found mission to scare everyone into doing what the government tells them, I thought I'd pass along a couple of photos and some links I've seen of flooding after Tropical Storm Irene.

Here's one from New York City, along the East River on August 28:
Image credit: David Shankbone/Flickr

The caption with the photo reads:
The swollen East River alongside Manhattan's East River Park after Hurricane Irene. Debris along the esplanade was evidence of the river slightly breaching. Taken early morning.
See David Shankborn's Hurricane Irene Flick set for more pictures from around Manhattan.

The East River is a big river. It's right next to an even bigger river, the Hudson. Ships sail up and down the river, and it was filled up with about a day's rain.

Here's one from along Route 35 in Colonia, NJ on the same day:

Image credit: CBGB_hoser

I'd like to thank these two photographers for making these photos available via the Commons License.

Paul Krugman posted an article with a picture of flooding at the Princeton train station. It's part of an interactive map of TS Irene photos sent in by New York Times readers. (You'll need to enable Javascript, of course.)

Which should make the point that it didn't matter that there was little wind - the water was the problem, as it was in New Orleans a few years ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Human Nature Abhors A Power Vacuum

Caption: An air pressure gauge reading negative pressure. Let's hope that's not where Libya's governmental authority is at the moment.

Image credit: Stuart Yeates

Much as nature abhors a vacuum, meaning that when there's an absence of matter there's nearly always something to fill it, human societies abhor a power vacuum. In the case of filling a vacuum, the side effect is wind (or some form of fluid flow) and upheaval. There is similar upheaval when power vacuums are finally filled.

That's the lesson ahead for Libya starting this week, it appears, according to the New York Times:
TRIPOLI, Libya — Fighters from the western mountain city of Zintan control the airport. The fighters from Misurata guard the central bank, the port and the prime minister’s office, where their graffiti has relabeled the historic plaza “Misurata Square.” Berbers from the mountain town Yafran took charge of the city’s central square, where they spray-painted “Yafran Revolutionaries."

A week after rebels broke into Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s former stronghold, much of its territory remains divided into fiefs, each controlled by quasi-independent brigades representing different geographic areas of the country. And the spray paint they use to mark their territory tells the story of a looming leadership crisis in the capital, Tripoli.

Reading the rest of that NYT report provides more examples of dissension and disagreement that were put on hold while the job of removing Muammar el-Qaddafi from power. Now, I suspect we'll be finding out if there are any statesmen left in Libya, and how much power they can wield.

For the last four decades, power in Libya was arranged around Muammar el-Qaddafi, his family, and his supporters. Now, those are all gone, and people there have to figure out how they will govern themselves.

That's never an easy task. At the beginning of the United States, we at least had states and cities with viable governments in place. There was no central government, and it would take four years before the states even considered the necessity of one, but things were at least somewhat settled when it came to who was running the government and what the government would do for its citizens.

In Libya, they don't appear to have even that much head start. In many ways, it's like Iraq after we invaded. With Saddam gone, and most people who could have been his rivals, and thus alternative leaders, either dead or exiled, there was little to replace him. The council of revolutionaries has been in place in Libya for a few months, but beyond the need to get rid of the Qaddafis and make sure there is some form of orderly transition, they don't appear to agree on very much.

At least, that's my view from across the ocean, with only Al Jazeera and the BBC to provide much in the way of useful information. I wish them the best, but I suspect it won't be fun to be there for a while to come.

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Ringy Dingy...

Image credit: Cujo359

The phone rang today at a not terribly inconvenient time, and the caller ID said the call was from the 202 area code. In my life lately, that means some Republican or other is calling to ask for money or to run a push poll on me. I don't know which of the many wise-asses in my circle of acquaintances did it, but somehow they seem to have gotten me signed up as being a died-in-the-wool conservative.

It used to be that this was a reason to avoid picking up the phone, but I'm a big fan of irony, and there's no shortage of that in politics these days. Take the conversation I had when I picked up the phone:

Caller: I'm [insert real name here] from the Republican Party. How are you?

[They always ask how we are. If I say that I'm becoming suicidal thanks to being a shut-in now that they've decided that we need to starve all our governments of money to let the markets run free, and services are breaking down, do you suppose they'd even notice?]

Me: Umm, OK.

Caller: I'm sure you must be very alarmed at the way President Obama is handling the economy.

Me: Yes, I am, largely because he's doing exactly what you'd be doing if you were running things.

Caller: Umm, what do you...

Of course, I hung up at that point, because there's really no point in arguing with idiots. Still, it's a lot better than talking to Democrats these days.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Call It A PSA

Back in the 1970s, I lived in rural eastern Pennsylvania with my family. There was a little creek near our house, with maybe ten feet of elevation between us and it, and the nearest it got to our house under normal circumstances was two hundred feet or so.

Then, one summer a hurricane happened by. It rained for days. The creek swelled to a volume I hadn't thought possible. We were starting to wonder if we were going to have to hike to high ground in a few hours. We didn't have to, but another foot or two of flood level and we would have.

I write all that as a way of trying to counter some foolishness I see on the Internet right now, about how this Hurricane, excuse me, Tropical Storm Irene is only a Category 1 storm, so what's the worry? The worry is that it's fracking huge, and it has at least as much water in it as that hurricane of many years ago. Here's what NOAA was predicting for storm surges early this morning:

Image credit: Screenshot of NOAA National Hurricane Center page by Cujo359

A four-foot storm surge at high tide will inundate a lot of beaches, and sometimes even the roads or other infrastructure that's near them. It would probably be enough to cover this road, if it were at high tide at Redondo beach near where I live:

Image credit: Cujo359

I don't know if the local officials on the East Coast have a clue what they're doing or not, but I know this - it doesn't take wind to make a hurricane dangerous. Torrents of water can do it all by themselves. Don't focus on the wind; it's the water that's the problem. It will overwhelm sewage systems and storm drains, it will flood creeks, rivers, and even bays. It will knock out electricity.

So, if your local officials say you'll be safer elsewhere, I'd suggest you listen to them seriously.

Everyone stay safe.

A Couple Of Quotes On Economics

Some random examples of how silly things are getting in our national debates on just about everything:

Paul Krugman responds to an oped by some numskull about Keynesian economics:
[T]here’s something deeply weird about asking “where’s the market failure?” in the face of massive unemployment, huge unused capacity, an economy producing less than it did three and a half years ago despite population growth and advancing technology. Of course there’s some kind of market failure, which means that there’s nothing at all odd about asserting that better policy can yield free lunches.

Irregular Economics
If you've wondered how that economics you learned in that introductory course you took years ago actually work in the real world, the rest of Krugman's article might be worth a read. The important point here, though, is that there is clearly a failure in the economy of the country. What that might be could be open to debate (I don't think it is, at least in general terms - it's lack of demand, thanks to lack of gainful employment for a large segment of the country), but it's not debatable that there has been a failure. We're close to another banking collapse, the second in three years. That's not a healthy system. Anyone who claims to understand economics who can't find a market failure right now is like a surgeon can't find his ass using both hands and a large-print edition of Gray's Anatomy.

The second quote is courtesy of Robert Reich, one of the other economists on the blogroll:
Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue. But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example).

So let’s bag the picnics and parades this Labor Day. American workers should march in protest. They’re getting the worst deal they’ve had since before Labor Day was invented – and the economy is suffering as a result.

This Labor Day We Need Protest Marches Rather than Parades
While this might be a good idea, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to be able to organize such a thing in the next few days. We certainly need for ordinary Americans to get together in some way to let their politicians know that things are getting unbearable for us. They don't seem to understand. If they understand, they certainly don't care. And I'm amazed that Americans aren't fighting mad about this state of affairs already.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Lambert Strether, discussing yet another rant by a Daily Kos diarist, Laurence Lewis in this case, claiming that we should vote for Obama because The Other Guys (tm) are crazy:
Who says the D[emocrat]s aren't crazy? They're just crazy in a sneakier and more manipulative way.

The only cards Kos has are the Nader card and the racist card, since Obama can't run on his record
If you need that thought explained to you, I suggest clicking on the Barack Obama and progressives keywords and having a nice, long read. There's no secret here - Obama has continued the policies of the Bush Administration in nearly all policy areas. The few differences on the side of progressivism are, in my opinion, more than offset by the executive overreach of assuming that Obama can order the death of an American citizen without presenting any actual proof that he's committed a crime, by expanding the war in Afghanistan, by unilaterally involving us in the war in Libya, or by extending the black sites network to include places in Afghanistan.

Here is Lewis' conclusion:
No Democrat who has any chance of ever becoming president will challenge President Obama in 2012, and as was the case immediately after the 2008 primaries season ended, when Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign and announced her support for Obama, anyone who thinks Russ Feingold has the character and judgment to be president in 2013 needs to consider his character and judgment in deciding who he wants to be president in 2013. It may not be the most savory option for those yearning for a more liberal, progressive, and yes—pragmatic— political agenda, but the only options for 2012 are President Obama and a batshit crazy Republican. And when every credible Republican candidate denies or wants to do nothing about climate change, and is otherwise at war with basic scientific facts, it is not hyperbole to call them batshit crazy.

Feingold to support Obama for president in 2012
[links from original article]

Even when the Democrats had control of both the House and the Senate, they did nothing about any of these things beyond a few small programs that were part of the stimulus. From the point of view of the average citizen, how much difference does it make if their politicians don't believe that climate change and evolution are real, or that they know they're real but are so corrupt and cowardly that they don't ever act on this knowledge? For my own part, that difference is one that makes no difference at all.

We are entering an increasingly dark era in the life of our society, in which ignorance and cruelty are gradually replacing enlightenment and generosity. All the while, these people are arguing that the politicians in power, who have been Democrats at least as much as Republicans these last five years, have nothing to do with this. It's hard to imagine a more stupid argument, but they continue to make it.

Video Of The Day

Dr. Michael Shermer, a former psychology professor and founder of the Skeptics Society, on the question of why skepticism in science is necessary:

His basic premise, based on his own experience as a psychology student studying paranormal phenomena, is that while other organisms don't intentionally deceive scientists, human beings often do. They may do it for profit, or out of fear of being discovered to be something they'd rather not have people know, or just for their own amusement, but it's something they often do. I suspect that some day we'll find that some of the more intelligent animals try to deceive us as well, but that people do this is now a well-established fact.

In any field of human endeavor, it's important to remember that human beings will sometimes try to deceive us. In my own experience, which includes observing the supporters of various politicians, the best way to deceive people is to tell them what they want to hear. Being skeptical of the people who tell you things you think are true is often just as important, and far more difficult, than being skeptical of something you're not inclined to believe anyway.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Ian Welsh, on the death of Jack Layton, the leader of Canada's New Democratic Party:
The Liberals are not, unfortunately, a credible option. They, as with most “centrist” parties in the world today, simply want to go to hell on the slow road. Electing the NDP, then, is our only chance. They might not do the right things, but they are the only party which would even consider doing the right things. And Layton was a strong leader and one whom many Canadians genuinely liked. The nickname “Smiling Jack” started out derisive, but it became a term of affection.

RIP, Jack Layton, Federal New Democratic Party Leader
One way to judge someone is to listen to what his adversaries say about him. One of his principle adversaries, Prime Minister Steven Martin, had this to say, as quoted by the National Journal yesterday:
“I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight.”

Jack Layton dies of cancer
While I think that the only valid way to find out what kind of executive someone might be is to put him in the position and see, I suspect that Layton would have been a far better leader than the current prime minister. If you want to see the respect a politician who tried to live up to his rhetoric can inspire, then go read the rest of Ian's article. It's a sad contrast to the parade of arrogant posers and hypocrites who have occupied the White House in the last couple of decades.

But the part of the quote that struck a chord with me is the opening sentences. In the U.S., we have no equivalent of the New Democrats. The Democrats are a centrist party, at least on their good days. On their bad days, they seem to suffer from Tea Party envy. They're alternately useless and dangerous, and The Other Guys usually only manage to avoid being useless. There's not much to look forward to in American politics until progressives generally understand this, and are willing to do what is necessary to change things.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bizarre Internet Poll Of The Day

While doing some background reading at the Baltimore Sun, I noticed this poll:

Screenshot of Baltimore Sun website by Cujo359

I'm torn. I'm not a big fan of sports where people wail the snot out of each other. On the other hand, I'm a big fan of irony.

Put me down as "Not sure".

In The Middle Of The Forest...

Updated 10 PM, PDT

While we were driving through the Willamette National Forest last week, my traveling companion was kind enough to stop to let me take some photos of this bridge:

Image credit: Cujo359

It's a bit amazing to me that those long, thin columns can support a train so high in the air on such a narrow trestle. Watching a 100,000 ton train cross one of these strikes me as a lot like seeing a high wire act.

UPDATE: As commenter Dougo was kind enough to point out, the bridge is actually in the Willamette National Park, not Deschutes. I've corrected that error. In my defense, the two parks are right next to each other, and the maps I looked at don't agree on where the boundaries lie. However, they all agree that the bridge is within Willamette NP.

Dougo also pointed out that this bridge is near a recent mudslide that took out the rail line that passes over that bridge in two places:
An aerial view of the slide showed that more than 1,500 feet of mainline track at milepost 551.5 was gone. The lower mainline section that the slide covered was at 3,300 feet in elevation, while the upper main line that the slide destroyed was 900 feet higher. In between was a mess of mud, boulders, and more than 700,000 board feet of uprooted old-growth Douglas Fir timber. Most of the timber was jack-strawed (strewn in a jumbled pile) at the bottom.

To say that the Frazier Slide’s devastation was dramatic is a huge understatement. Geologists investigating the site estimated that once the slide broke loose, it rode a cushion of air down the mountainside at more than 60 mph. The slide destroyed everything in its path. Trees on the edge of the slide showed mud lines 40 and 50 feet high on their trunks with all limbs and branches below that line sheared off.

Union Pacific Vs. The Mudslide (PDF)
Professional Surveyor reports the likely cause of the mudslide:
Union Pacific was doing much more on the track than simply cleaning and reconnecting it. To analyze the causes of the slide, they worked with geotechnical and hydrology consultants and asked the survey crew to locate monitoring wells and spots on the hillside where water emerged. The analysis suggested that the slide was caused by built-up groundwater. This information was incorporated into a model of the site and used to design large ditches and culverts intended to shed and drain water, hopefully heading off future landslides. Also, the newly laid track is farther away from the mountainside, leaving more room for water management structure as well as more rock in the rail bed.

Mountain of Mud
Which is yet another reason why geology is important for things other than drilling oil wells.

The reason the track was cut in two places is that it does a switchback to get up the hill that had the mudslide. Here is a map with the approximate area of the mudslide in brown:
Image credit: Background map by OpenCycleMaps, annotation by Cujo359

Click on the map to enlarge it. For a more accurate graphic, check out page 26 (PDF page 3) of the article quoted above.

This track is in the middle of a large complex of national parks, which from a logistical perspective means that it's in the middle of nowhere. The crews that repaired that track had to bring everything they needed, and since it was a national park, where they have rules about such things, they no doubt had to pack it out again when they were finished. As Professional Surveyor notes:
Site logistics were eye-popping. For example, at one time 200-plus pieces of equipment were all running at once in an area just 2,000-feet long by 100-feet wide! And the functioning train tracks on either side of the slide area were used to advantage: four 20-car "mud trains" (two on each side of the slide) equipped with self-dumping cars were used to haul sized rock (used as ballast for new rail beds) to the site and to haul away mud, which lay as thick as 30 feet over some portions of track.

Even something as basic as communication required serious effort in this remote, difficult location. Since standard cell phone service wasn't available, Union Pacific had a custom cell phone tower installed and issued special phones to every worker on the project. And to get around on site, in the midst of dozens of trucks, backhoes, dozers, and trains, Vallo and Platero typically walked, as their work kept them on the leading edges of the project, where footing was still uncertain. They did have access to a John Deere gator for occasional equipment hauling.

Mountain of Mud
It's a lot different from working near a major population center, where much of what might be needed at the last minute to do some unforeseen work can probably be obtained at a local hardware store or equipment rental place. Out there, if you need lunch you have to bring it, and anything you need to prepare it.

One of the reasons I find this interesting, and worth noting, is that while I was driving around Oregon there were a number of things I saw that would make that mudslide look like a spot of dirt. More on that later, perhaps. Meanwhile, this is yet another example of why maintaining infrastructure is not only important, but essential if we are to continue to use it. Nature never stops breaking things.

Thanks to Dougo for providing the correction and the links.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Up And Down The River

A couple of views of the Willamette River near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The first is toward the north, including the I-405 bridge:

Image credit: Photos by Cujo359

The second is toward the south, with the retired submarine Blueback on the left, and the Ross Island Bridge in the distance.

UPDATE (Aug. 24): There's another arch bridge in James Ala's pictures of the San Simeon area.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On The Road Again

funny dog pictures - yees i got  liceinse it on mi neck
Image credit: I Has A Hot Dog

I'll be on the road the rest of the week, so posting will be even sparser than usual.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Averages

The average person has one breast and one testicle. - Dixie Lee Ray

The mean average, roughly defined as the value all members of a set of things would have if they were all the same value, is a mathematical concept that is often useful, but also often overused. Maybe the most egregious example recently has been average wealth. As we've seen, the average wealth in the U.S., more properly known as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, is something that tells you very little about how a typical American is doing financially these days. As we have seen, a small number of people can do very well, while everyone else sees no improvement, and the GDP per capita will still rise. For a better picture of how most of us are doing, looking at the median personal income is probably a better measure. That has changed little in the last couple of decades.

xkcd provides another example, a fictionalized one from the world of online product evaluations:

Image credit: xkcd

The trick to understanding the meaning of an average, of course, is to understand the set of data it's calculated from.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Profiles In Fierce Advocacy: Let's Soak The Rich Sigh A Lot

Image credit: quinn.anya/Flickr

From NPR White House reporter Ari Shapiro comes this little gem from President Obama's latest press conference:
NORRIS: So a lot of finger wagging all around, but what about at the White House? Did they, too, point fingers?

SHAPIRO: It was striking how far they went to try not to point fingers. As a matter of fact, just before the president began speaking today, I was able to see the printed text of his comments on the teleprompter, and I watched a last minute edit that may give some insight. One passage of the speech referred to asking for sacrifice from those who can most afford to pay their fair share. And as I was looking at the teleprompter, the phrase wealthy Americans and corporations was highlighted and deleted from the text.

On Economy, Obama Calls For Confidence, Action

Apparently, some speech writer forgot who he was working for for a moment.

(h/t lambert at Corrente)

Quote Of The Day

Comrade Earth Bound Misfit made this very perceptive observation about the London riots today:
Rioting is a self-destructive action. Riots generally only cause the authorities to become even more brutal and oppressive. Riots also are a sign that people feel helpless and believe that they have no power to change the system. The difference between a riot and an insurrection is that in an insurrection, people do have a sense that they can effect change.

What Do Hosni Mubarack, Bashar al-Assad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and David Cameron All Have in Common?
The thought that occurred to me as I was reading about these riots is how similar they were to the 1960s riots in America. Destroying the neighborhood you live in or near must be one of the ultimate signs of hopelessness. If you're mad enough to fight someone, why not fight the people who caused the problem? At least part of the answer is that they just don't see any hope that it will do any good.

Cameron is like those other guys Comrade EB mentions, partly because he uses the same sort of misdirection to accuse others of causing the problems his own government is largely responsible for:
In a sombre address to MPs recalled from their summer break, Mr Cameron promised to "restore a sense of morality" to Britain, laying much of the blame for the violence at the door of parents whose children took part. Rejecting claims that poverty lay behind the rioting and looting, Mr Cameron said the root causes of the violence were cultural, not economic. "A culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities. The young people stealing flatscreen televisions and burning shops – that was not about politics or protest, it was about theft," he said.

UK riots: tougher powers could curb Twitter
I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that those young people are unemployed (NOTE 1) far more than the country at large, and Cameron's government just decided to cut the safety net so they could feed more money to the banks.

By the way, as someone pointed out today, there is at least one way that David Cameron isn't like those other guys. They wouldn't hypocritically criticize the U.K. government for acts like cutting off Internet and Blackberry access to quell a riot, and then do the very same thing a few months later.

NOTE 1: To see what I mean, enable Flashmedia and Javascript as necessary, then visit the purple areas in the London detail map.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Today At The University of Chicago School of Economics

Today they scoff, but tomorrow:

funny pictures - Are you prepared to defend your dissertation, "A Study of the Economic Impact of Pooping On Imports Image credit: I Can Has Cheezburger

A successful defense could lead to a place in the inner circle of Presidential economic advisors, or Third Way, or the American Enterprise Institute, for that matter.

You go, little guy.

UPDATE: If he fails to defend his thesis, he might end up as an economics reporter for a major news organization. Which is sort of like brain death, but with medical benefits.

Awesome Photo Of The Day

This picture of the home of the European Southern Observatory's home on Cerro Paranal, in Chile:

Image credit: Yuri Beletsky/ESO/APOD

Snow in the desert is an awesome sight, even when it's not accompanied by a meteor and a sky full of stars.

Click on the image credit link to be taken to the Astronomy Picture Of the Day article, which includes a full explanation of the photo and lots of links.

An Interesting Rant By Dylan Ratigan

Watch this one before Ratigan is ushered out of MSNBC:

I can't imagine the financial institutions that own and sponsor MSNBC are going to allow this kind of talk for too long.

To say I agree with him is an understatement. We are in the grip of one of the worst robber baron economies in our country's history. National politics has always been a rich man's game here, but it used to be that the rest of the country counted for something. I don't think that's true right now.

All the people who tell me that things will be worse if the Republicans are back in power are smoking a substance I wish I could still partake in. Neither party gives a crap about the poor or the middle class right now, because progressives don't want to make them. Until they do, until they decide to break one of the parties and either reform or replace it, nothing will change for the better.

Ratigan is right, they've poured more than $15 trillion into this corrupt and unreformed financial system, and it's the same as it was. Both parties did this, and hardly anyone in Congress or the DC press objected.

So, to all the people who say that things will be worse with Republicans in power, when the surest way to get telecomm immunity passed, to restrict access to abortions, to start chipping away at Social Security, and to start gutting Medicare and Medicaid is to put Democrats in charge of things, I say this - you come up with a better plan than breaking the power of this corrupt and useless Democratic Party. If you can't, then don't tell me that I'm reckless or stupid for proposing that this is what needs to be done. There's no room in America for two right wing, corporatist parties when things are this bad, and hope isn't a plan.

The floor is yours, but I'm not feeling terribly patient.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Photo(s)

A few seascapes from my most recent adventures:

This is the tanker pier near the oil refineries at Anacortes, Washington:

Image credit: All images by Cujo359

These are a couple of views from Rosario Beach State Park, first toward the north, with Rosario Beach toward the right:

And a view to the south, in the general direction of Whidbey Island:

Finally, Penn Cove, which is south of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island:

Click on the pictures to enlarge. Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

David Sirota On Who Barack Obama Is

David Sirota published this opinion in Salon yesterday:
Considering this, and further considering Obama's early congressional majorities, it is silly to insist that the national political events during Obama's term represent a lack of presidential strength or will. And it's more than just silly -- it's a narcissistic form of wishful thinking coming primarily from liberals who desperately want to believe "their" president is with them.

Such apologism, of course, allows liberals to avoid the more painful truth that Obama is one of America's strongest presidents ever and is achieving exactly what he wants.

Obama isn't weak (he just isn't a liberal)

I think Sirota’s closer to being right than most progressive observers have been. While there’s certainly reason to suspect that some of Obama’s views have more to do with his own self-interest than they do with what he has learned over the years, he’s been pretty consistent in matters of policy. Ignore what the man says, because he’s a consummate liar. Just look at who he’s chosen as advisors, and what he’s done.

He chose economic advisors who believe in the same “free market” nonsense he learned to love at the University of Chicago. Not only did he surround himself with them at the White House, but he chose similarly-inclined knuckledraggers to be on his Deficit Commission.

He chose foreign policy advisors who believe in using military force to advance human rights, which is what he’s tried to do both in Afghanistan and Libya.

He chose a candidate for SecHHS who was obviously opposed to the idea of any form of government-provided health care. When that guy got into trouble, he nominated another one.

He chose an Attorney General who could be counted on to look the other way when he did whatever he wanted in the “war on terrorism”. He then chose one of George W. Bush's torture apologists as a foreign policy advisor. That’s worked out the way just about anyone could have predicted.

If you want to know how a new leader is going to rule, look at who he chooses for advisors. It’s usually a dead giveaway. That’s certainly been a tell with Obama. He has done what anyone would have predicted who knew who those people were and what they stood for.

This is who he is. He’s getting what he wants.

Why does this matter? Normally, I'd say that the motivations of someone who is doing something as wrong-headed as what Obama is doing to the country don't matter, the acts speak for themselves. But on the question of what to do about those actions, understanding the motivation helps to eliminate plans that clearly won't work. It clearly won't work to try to persuade Obama to change his mind, nor will it help to call his courage into question. Those aren't the issue here. The issue is that the man believes in what he's doing, at least in many policy areas. That means that the only way to change what the President does is to find ourselves another President.

Once that becomes clear, then the work of figuring out how to do that can begin in earnest.

Afterword: Earlier versions of these remarks appeared as a comment at Taylor Marsh's blog.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"I'm Tired Of Dealing With The Crazies"

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, said that during a news conference concerning his appointment of an American Muslim, Sohail Mohammed, to be a Superior Court judge:

I'd love to think that this "brusque" expression of a sentiment that should be common to all Americans would change a few minds about the bigotry Christie is decrying, but based on past experience, I know better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Special Tuesday Morning Photo

Mount Baker rises above the trees from a vantage point in Concrete, Washington:

Image credit: Cujo359

Just one of the many things I've been seeing during this mini-vacation. Click on the photo to enlarge, and try to enjoy the rest of your week.