Daily Archive: 05/07/2012

May 07 2012

No Hulu for You

Hulu’s owners – Disney, News Corp. and Comcast, which respectively own ABC, Fox and NBC – want to ruin the future of TV.1 If they have their way, you’ll need a cable subscription to watch any TV show on the Internet.

They want to move to a so-called “authentication” system that would allow only cable TV subscribers to access shows on Hulu.

It’s just the latest in their ongoing efforts to derail Internet innovation and control the future of television. Sign this letter to stop Disney, News Corp. and Comcast from putting the Internet genie back in the bottle.

Sign the Petition

Hulu has created a revolution in how millions watch TV – putting control over what what we watch in the hands of viewers. But your decision to allow only cable subscribers to access TV shows on Hulu would take away all that.

The Internet is the future of TV. Stop trying to derail innovation. Reverse your backwards decision to restrict access to TV programming online.

May 07 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Those Revolting Europeans

The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it’s about time.

Both countries held elections Sunday that were in effect referendums on the current European economic strategy, and in both countries voters turned two thumbs down. It’s far from clear how soon the votes will lead to changes in actual policy, but time is clearly running out for the strategy of recovery through austerity – and that’s a good thing.

Needless to say, that’s not what you heard from the usual suspects in the run-up to the elections. It was actually kind of funny to see the apostles of orthodoxy trying to portray the cautious, mild-mannered François Hollande as a figure of menace. He is “rather dangerous,” declared The Economist, which observed that he “genuinely believes in the need to create a fairer society.” Quelle horreur!

Harold Meyerson: Europe finds austerity a tight fit

Europe has seen austerity, and it doesn’t work. [..]

The United States has austerity demons of its own, of course. While the private sector has rebounded somewhat from the 2008-09 collapse, creating 4 million jobs since the turnaround began in 2010, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees – including 196,000 teachers – since President Obama took office, The Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb reported. The shrinking of government ranks high among the drags on the U.S. recovery. The 2009 stimulus provided funding to states and cities that enabled them to keep many workers on the job, but when that funding began running out in 2010, layoffs, particularly among teachers, redoubled.

The lesson of 2008 was that unregulated finance ends in disaster. The lesson of the years since is that austerity in a time of economic weakness not only perpetuates that disaster but makes it worse. The world, one might think, would have learned this lesson from the 1930s; Germany, at least, should have. Alas, it apparently has to be relearned, painfully, again and again.

Robert Reich: A Question of Timing: What America Can Learn from the Revolt in Europe

Who’s an economy for? Voters in France and Greece have made it clear it’s not for the bond traders.

Referring to his own electoral woes, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote Monday in an article in the conservative Daily Telegraph: “When people think about the economy they don’t see it through the dry numbers of the deficit figures, trade balances or inflation forecasts – but instead the things that make the difference between a life that’s worth living and a daily grind that drags them down.” [..]

In truth, the choice isn’t simply between budget-cutting austerity, on the one hand, and growth and jobs on the other.

It’s really a question of timing. And it’s the same issue on this side of the pond. If government slices spending too early, when unemployment is high and growth is slowing, it makes the debt situation far worse.

The Guardian Editorial: François Hollande: the change France needs

François Hollande has a rare opportunity to reshape the political landscape in a country whose default position is to the right

François Hollande won a stunning victory, not just for himself, as a man who spent much of his career in the shadow of others, nor for France, but for the left in Europe, too. With the governing parties who preached austerity under attack from a voter revolt on Sunday- in the Greek elections, where the extreme right was set to win enough votes to enter parliament; in Schleswig-Holstein, where the vote of Angela Merkel’s coalition partners, the Free Democrats, collapsed – the breakthrough of the left in France was a huge achievement and, just maybe, a turning point.

Nicolas Sarkozy is the 11th European leader to fall since the banking crisis broke and this result is more than just a shot across the bows for the former Sarkozy loyalists in Ms Merkel or David Cameron. France’s new direction is a mortal blow to the austerity compact which has been Europe’s anchor response to the crisis. Mr Hollande is no radical. Conscious of how polarised France has become between left and right, he wanted his supporters to celebrate, not demonstrate. He has set himself just one year longer to balance France’s budget than the man he defeated. But he arrives in power at that point in history where the victims of boom and bust, rather than its perennially self-satisfied authors, have become the dominant political voice.

Joan Walsh: Let Biden be Biden

The VP comes out for same sex marriage. Then his office insists he “was saying what the president has said”

For cryin’ out loud.

Sunday morning on “Meet the Press” Vice President Joe Biden went completely Joe Biden on the issue of marriage equality, telling David Gregory “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights,” and crediting “Will and Grace.” That’s the Joe Biden we know and love. [..]

It seemed an important step for an administration that can’t seem to get the president all the way there. President Obama is going to have to come out for gay marriage one of these days – can anyone honestly believe he’s against it? – but having the Catholic Biden endorse it helps, too. The group Catholic Democrats immediately Tweeted the little known fact that Catholics are the most pro-gay marriage of all Christian groups. Yet the backwards politics of the U.S. Bishops means most people don’t know that, and thus view gay marriage as a no-fly zone during an election season when the  Catholic swing vote is particularly important. So Biden’s comment mattered.

A’ex Pareene: America’s idiot rich

The 1 percent is complaining louder than ever. There can be no reasoning with people this irrational

Some unknown but alarming number of ultra-rich Americans are now basically totally delusional and completely divorced from reality. This is now an inescapable fact, confirmed by multiple media accounts of billionaire thought and an entire special issue of the New York Times Magazine. [..]

There can be no reasoning with people this irrational. Any attempt to do so will fail, as Barack Obama, whose main goal is to maintain, not upend, the system that made these people so disgustingly wealthy, is learning. It’s growing harder and harder to pretend that the fantastically wealthy have a sophisticated understanding of politics – or math, or economics, or cause-and-effect.

Dana Milbank: Taking out Dick Lugar

When Indiana Republicans go to the polls on Tuesday, they will do more than choose a candidate for the Senate. They will choose between party and country. [..]

For years Dick Lugar has been the leading Senate Republican on foreign policy, shaping post-Cold War strategy, securing sanctions to end South African apartheid and bringing democracy to the Philippines, among other things. His signature achievement, drafted with Democrat Sam Nunn, was the 1992 Nunn-Lugar Act, which has disarmed thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads once aimed at the United States.

Enter Richard Mourdock, a tea party hothead attempting to defeat Lugar in the GOP primary. A cornerstone of his effort to oust Lugar is the six-term senator’s bad habit of bipartisanship – never mind that Lugar’s bipartisanship was in the service of protecting millions of Americans from nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism.

May 07 2012

On This Day In History May 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 7 is the 127th day of the year (128th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 238 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1824, the world premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna, Austria. The performance is conducted by Michael Umlauf under the deaf composer’s supervision. It was Beethoven’s first appearance on stage in 12 years. Over the years the symphony has been performed for both political and non-political from the eve of Hitler’s birthday, to the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Ode to Joy was used as the anthem by Kosovo when it declared it’s independence in 2008.

May 07 2012

Ahmadinejad Dealt Blow in Iranian Elections

While all eyes were on France, the ouster of Nicholas Sarkozy and a rejection of austerity, Iran has been conducting its first elections since the 2009 elections that reinstalled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. This was the second round of voting for seats in the Parliament elections that were held in March. It has dealt a blow to Ahmadinejad and his supporters with a shift to more conservative backers of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The rift between Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah began with dispute over the choice of the national security chief. The voting has left the Ayatollah firmly in charge:

With the bulk of seats decided in Iran’s parliamentary elections, it appeared on Sunday that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has gained the ironclad majority he needed not just to bring the country’s president to heel, but to eliminate the position entirely.

Ayatollah Khamenei has jousted repeatedly with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – as well as the two previous presidents – so the supreme leader secured this majority at Mr. Ahmadinejad’s expense.

The ayatollah will seek “to eliminate the post of president,” said Aliakbar Mousavi Khoeini, a former reformist member of the Parliament now living in exile in the United States.

“If they can get that, they will not hold the next presidential election; instead, Parliament will chose a prime minister,” he said. “Then Khamenei will essentially have everything he does approved and pushed through Parliament by his allies.”

Ayatollah Khamenei suggested last October that Iran would be better off governed under a parliamentary system in which the prime minister was chosen from members of the 290-seat Parliament. Under Iran’s byzantine electoral system, most reformist candidates were barred from running in last Friday’s election, essentially creating a contest between the two main hard-liner camps.

With 90 percent of the districts counted, Ayatollah Khamenei’s allies had won about 75 percent of the 200 seats in those districts, according to Press TV, Iran’s state-financed satellite channel, quoting the Interior Ministry.

Khamesian said Ahmadinejad was gradually fading from Iran’s political scene but could still stir up conflict with parliament.

“Ahmadinejad is the losing party. So, he will try to create tensions in the hope of getting concessions,” he said.

The outgoing parliament and Ahmadinejad are at loggerheads over how quickly to slash food and energy subsidies. The president favors dramatic cuts to boost Iran’s ailing economy by reducing the massive drain on the state budget from the subsidies.

The government implemented a first phase of slashing subsidies in December 2010. Gasoline prices quadrupled and bread prices tripled after the cuts came into effect. Prices have also increased in recent months, partly as a result of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as news that the government is considering ending subsidies altogether.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, one of Ahmadinejad’s opponents, said the parliament won’t allow him to quickly end the remaining subsidies because it would cause wild inflation and public dissatisfaction.]

(Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now out of favor with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, suffered more setbacks in a run-off parliamentary election seen as a pointer for next year’s presidential race, results showed on Saturday.

The authorities hailed the outcome as a resounding triumph for Iran as it prepares for nuclear negotiations with the West.

Results announced by the Interior Ministry showed the United Principalist Front, closely linked with Khamenei and critical of Ahmadinejad, leading Friday’s vote, but with the hardline Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution close behind.

The allegiance of the Resistance Front is tricky to fathom. It also backs Khamenei, but some members have served under Ahmadinejad. Some still support the president, others dislike his chief of staff, accused of trying to undermine Iran’s theocratic system.

At the heart of this election were Iran’s nuclear energy program and continued subsidies for food and energy which have been cut, and along with Western sanctions, have resulted in drastic increases in the price of gas and bread:

“The vote is support for the ruling system as it faces the U.S. and its allies over the nuclear program … The vote also means that tensions will increase between Ahmadinejad and his opponents in the incoming parliament,” political analyst Ali Reza Khamesian said.

Khamesian said Ahmadinejad was gradually fading from Iran’s political scene but could still stir up conflict with parliament.

“Ahmadinejad is the losing party. So, he will try to create tensions in the hope of getting concessions,” he said.

The outgoing parliament and Ahmadinejad are at loggerheads over how quickly to slash food and energy subsidies. The president favors dramatic cuts to boost Iran’s ailing economy by reducing the massive drain on the state budget from the subsidies.

The government implemented a first phase of slashing subsidies in December 2010. Gasoline prices quadrupled and bread prices tripled after the cuts came into effect. Prices have also increased in recent months, partly as a result of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as news that the government is considering ending subsidies altogether.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, one of Ahmadinejad’s opponents, said the parliament won’t allow him to quickly end the remaining subsidies because it would cause wild inflation and public dissatisfaction.

It’s difficult to tell how this will effect talks about Iran’s nuclear energy program but it will hopefully cool the the saber rattling rhetoric, letting saner voices prevail. We can hope.

May 07 2012

Pique the Geek 20120506: Promethium, another odd Element

Last time we discussed technetium, and now we shall discuss the only other element with Z < 82 with no stable isotope, promethium (Z = 61).  But there is more business than just that, and it has to do with a suggestion that commenter Wreck Smurfy‘s suggestion that I use actual hyperlinks to key terms rather than just bolding them.  There shall be more about that later.

Promethium is actually not as interesting as technetium, but still has its moments.  It has a storied tale of claimed discoveries, and one of my personal interests is the history of chemistry, in particular infighting by contributors.  I got into one of those contests myself back in the day, when I supported a particular geometry for the lowest triplet excited state for cyclohexen-2-one, but that is another story altogether.

Promethium, chemical symbol Pm, is a member of the lanthanide series, and those are often called the rare earth elements.  They are not all that rare, at least several of them, but their chemistry is such that they were extremely difficult to separate and purify until modern ion exchange chromatographic methods were developed after World War II, many of those techniques outgrowths of classified work during the Manhattan Project.

May 07 2012

Sunday Train: The Rock Island Line is a Mighty Fine Iowa Rapid-Rail Road

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

The Iowa Department of Transport has just completed the Chicago to Omaha Regional Passenger Rail System Planning Study, to select its preferred alignment for a detailed Environmental Impact Report.

There were five alignments in the study, based on the five historical passenger rail services between Chicago and Omaha. From north to south, these are: the Illinois Central; the Chicago & Northwestern; the Milwaukee Road; the Rock Island Line; and the Burlington Line. The study also included one combined alignment, based on where the Burlington Line and the Rock Island Line cross in Wyanet in western Illinois.

The combined alignment is the one selected, taking the Burlington alignment out of Chicago, and then taking the Rock Island line to Moline in the Quad Cities on the Illinois / Iowa border and through Iowa City and Des Moines to Omaha (probably via Council Bluffs, but that has yet to be determined).  

May 07 2012

The Bully Pulpit: An Administration Failure Zone

The bully pulpit has become a contentious issue among progressives with some progressives contending that President Obama has failed to use the bully pulpit:

Americans are deeply confused about the economy. In his inaugural address, Obama warned that “the nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” In private, he professes to understand that the growing concentration of income and wealth at the top has robbed the vast middle class of the purchasing power it needs to keep the economy going. He is well aware that the Great Recession wiped out $7.8 trillion of home value, crushing the nest eggs and eliminating the collateral that had allowed the middle class to keep spending despite declining wages — a decrease in consumption that is directly responsible for the anemic recovery. But he doesn’t explain this to the American people or attempt to mobilize them around a vision of what should be done.

Instead, even as unemployment rises to 9.2 percent and at least 14 million people look for work, he joins the GOP in making a fetish of reducing the budget deficit over the next decade and enters into a hair-raising game of chicken with House Republicans over whether the debt ceiling will be raised. Never once does he tell the public why reducing the deficit has become his No. 1 economic priority. Americans can only conclude that the Republicans must be correct — that diminishing the deficit will somehow revive economic growth and restore jobs. …

Why is Obama not using the bully pulpit? Perhaps he no longer trusts that Americans will hear him. Whatever the reason — that he’s embroiled in the tactical maneuvers that pass for policy-making, or intent on preserving political capital for the next skirmish, or cynical about how the media will relay or distort his message — he doesn’t try. He may also disdain the repetition necessary to break through the noise and drive home the larger purpose of his presidency.

A more disturbing explanation is that he simply lacks the courage to tell the truth. He wants most of all to be seen as a responsible adult rather than a fighter.

Some partisan progressives, however, go so far as to suggest that the bully pulpit doesn’t exist except in the imaginations of a certain segment of the left .

Of course, the bully pulpit is merely conceptual in nature, but it has become a well-accepted concept since its introduction into the common parlance by Teddy Roosevelt:

An older term within the U.S. Government, a bully pulpit is a public office or other position of authority of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the forefront that were not initially in debate, due to the office’s stature and publicity.

This term was coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to the White House as a “bully pulpit,” by which he meant a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda. Roosevelt famously used the word bully as an adjective meaning “superb” or “wonderful” (a more common expression in his time than it is today).

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