16 April 2012

Illustration of why constitutional amendment to provide for direct popular election of president is so crucial

This article is a perfect illustration of why one of the 10 points in Steven Hill's plan to repair American democracy, i.e., direct election of the president, is so crucial. It appears perfectly possible that rather than holding a referendum based on the Peoples' policy choices and candidate preference, there will be an all out money-driven battle for the votes of a tiny minority in a small number of relatively low-population states in 2012. Clearly, it is past time to reform this particular aspect of the Constitution of our country.

I will have further comments on Hill's proposals in a forthcoming post.

13 April 2012

Gary Sick on Iran (again)

As usual, Gary Sick's comments on the situation with Iran and the just-started negotiations with the US, are well worth a look: http://garysick.tumblr.com/

07 April 2012

Obama as Conservative Democrat, and Progressives

This article from Alternet is very well informed and presents a coherent short analysis of just why Progressives are so uhappy with Pres. Obama, but, more importantly, what we can do to try to shape the course of future policy... which will depend on his re-election.

05 April 2012

Habitable Worlds circling Red Dwarfs?

Here's an interesting short article (with very cool artist's conception and internal links) about the possibility of the existence of many, many habitable worlds orbiting red dwarfs (the most common type of star in the universe). 

The conventional wisdom has generally been that such worlds would be unlikely, mainly for two reasons: 1) they would have to be too close the star to be able to rotate with respect to it, in order to receive enough sunlight for habitable temperature (in other words they would tend to be stopped, with one face always to their sun, just as the moon is with respect to Earth); and 2) Red dwarfs flare all the time, and stellar flares are roughly the same dimensions no matter what the size of the star (no problem for a sunlike star over 100 million km from the planet, but a big problem for an "earthlike" planet only 4 or 5 million km from a tiny star; the flare could double the star's brightness and singe the planet). (Another objection is that photosynthesis is presumably a nearly universal process, and it only seems to work, chemically, with pigments like chlorophyll that maximize utilization of light well above the frequency of red light, but it can't be ruled out that there are other solutions to that particular biological puzzle; we only know about the optima for a planet with a yellow-star spectrum because that's where we live).

I don't see that recent developments really answer these potential objections, but it's interesting to see that astronomers are giving serious consideration to this, and actually collecting real data.

[Probably the first and only time I'll ever link to Fox News] .

04 April 2012

Outlaw baseless derivatives now!

Here's another Slate article I agree with totally. It explains why speculation in derivatives that don't involve insurable interest or ownership of an underlying asset should be illegal.

Keith Olbermann

Although I have frequently admired Keith Olbermann's commentaries, I have to say that it's readily apparent that he has let his monumental ego get in the way of his responsibility to his viewers. (See this.) He seems to think that because Current TV is something of a shoestring operation, it's entirely the fault of the network that he was unrealistic in his demands and proved immensely difficult to get along with. This is the case, according to all accounts. I'm not sure what Olbermann thinks his future prospects are, but having been fired from both MSNBC and Current, I think it more than likely that his career as a talk show commentator is over.

Workers' right to organize should be a constitutional right

This piece in Slate presents the arguments for why the right of workers to organize should be a constitutional right. I completely agree with this, and believe that such a reform is long overdue.

01 April 2012

What if Israel bombed Iran? (Sick)

Gary Sick writes a hypothetical piece  [ici] about what would actually happen if the lunatics in charge of Israel were to use their 'special relationship' with the Azeris (who would presumably let them land and refuel on return flights)... and actually proceed with the self-destructive impulse to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.

Personally, were I the president of the United States, I would tell Netanyahu that if they are crazy enough to try something like this, we will not cooperate in any way, we will denounce it while the planes are still in the air, and we will not assist in anything, not even rescue operations. And, oh, by the way, your military cooperation pact and aid pact with us is over forever.

I realize this is not the way it would go, but that would be my advice to Pres. Obama. To do this would make the entire situation in the great arc of disruption from Egypt to Islamabad infinitely worse for everyone.