Friday, December 09, 2016

The Coming Purge?

Bloomberg:

Advisers to President-elect Donald Trump are developing plans to reshape Energy Department programs, help keep aging nuclear plants online and identify staff who played a role in promoting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda.

The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. The advisers are also seeking information on agency loan programs, research activities and the basis for its statistics, according to a five-page internal document circulated by the Energy Department on Wednesday. The document lays out 65 questions from the Trump transition team, sources within the agency said.

...

“It’s certainly alarming that they would be targeting specific employees in this way,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Scientists are looking at this with some suspicion, because many of the people who have been chomping at the bit to dismantle federal climate change science programs are now deeply embedded in the transition.” That includes transition team advisers working to shape the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, he said.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

RIP John Glenn

John Glenn, fighter pilot, astronaut, U S Senator, and Presidential Candidate is dead at 95. I first saw him when he was a winner on the game show "Name that Tune." His wingman in Korea, he said, was the best fighter pilot ever. That wingman, Ted Williams, also was a pretty good hitter in baseball - the best ever. Nice story here:

NEW CONCORD — Seventy-five years ago, John Glenn headed to Brown Chapel on the Muskingum College campus.

It was a special occasion: Annie Castor, Glenn’s high-school sweetheart — whom he would marry two years later — was performing her senior organ recital.

But before the concert, Glenn heard the news on the radio. It was no longer just a day made special by Castor’s senior recital, but one that would live in infamy. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and a few days later, Glenn volunteered for flight training. He would go on to fly 149 combat missions as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and Korea.

Earlier today, the oak pews in the chapel where Glenn listened to Castor’s recital were filled for a university service to commemorate that day — the beginning of the couple’s 75 years of service — as well as the more than 30 Muskingum students who served in World War II but never made it home.

“Seventy-five years ago yesterday, in this space, God spoke and John and Annie listened,” said the Rev. William Mullins. “For in this spot, the eternal, nagging question of who shall we be and what shall we do was so beautifully answered, so steadfastly pursued, so unwaveringly sought — this son and daughter of New Concord set out that day to love, to inspire and to serve.”

The commemoration Thursday was held just before word got out that Glenn, who had been hospitalized this week, had died at age 95.

“It’s a particularly poignant moment today as we honor Sen. and Mrs. Glenn, at a particularly personally challenging time for them,” said Muskingum University President Susan Hasseler. “We are holding them close right now in our thoughts and prayers.”

As a Marine Corps pilot, Glenn broke the transcontinental-flight speed record before becoming in 1962 the first American to orbit the Earth and, 36 years later at age 77 in 1998, the oldest man in space as a member of the seven-astronaut crew of the shuttle Discovery.

Glenn’s journeys into space sandwiched his time as a public servant. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974 and served four terms, and he ran an unsuccessful campaign for president in 1984.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Conquest

They built towers widely throughout this nation, and oppressed the wretched people, and afterwards it continually grew very much worse. When God wills, may the end be good. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066

Tombs, Robert. The English and Their History (Kindle Locations 1223-1225). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Boeing, Boeing, Boink!

The Prez elect took time from his busy schedule of late night television criticism to take on Boeing and the planned successor Air Force One aircraft. In a largely fact free twitter rant he declared it "too expensive" and said he would cancel it. One theory has it that he would prefer to have the taxpayers pay to fly him around in his own 767, complete with gold plated toilets. Josh Marshall comes up with an alternate or perhaps additional motivation, based on personal pique.

This morning Donald Trump lashed out at Boeing claiming its budget for the successor to the current Air Force One is wildly overpriced.

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump

Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order! 6:52 AM - 6 Dec 2016 28,826 28,826 Retweets 86,803 86,803 likes

What prompted this? Boeing responded by saying that it is currently under contract for only $170 million, though Boeing's statement suggests the current contract only covers an initial investigatory stage of the construction of the airplane. "We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States," Boeing said in a statement.

According to Politico, the current Pentagon budget for not one but two planes is $1.65 billion.

It certainly seems that the number is off. But why did this have Trump's attention this morning? This seems like a relatively obscure issue given the range of things Trump is now working on. TPM Reader TC notes that The Chicago Tribune published this article about 20 minutes before Trump tweeted. That is, at least according to the 7:30 AM central time timestamp; Trump tweeted at 8:52 AM eastern.

The Tribune articles by Robert Reed starts like this ...

The brain trust at Boeing, among the city's largest companies and a global aerospace and defense powerhouse, must cringe every time President-elect Donald Trump riffs on foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with China. Boeing has a high percentage of its manufacturing in the US. But it is highly dependent on exports, especially to China.

The article recounts a speech Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg gave before the Illinois Manufacturers' Association on Friday in which he was mildly critical of Trump's plans both for the Export-Import Bank and more protectionist trade policies. The Tribune story wasn't the first time the speech was reported on. The Puget Sound Business Journal wrote up the speech on Friday. But a Google search (which is obviously an imperfect measure) suggests that the Tribune story was the only published mention of the speech in the last 24 hours prior to Trump's tweet. It seems at least plausible that the Tribune story was the first or one of the first reports of the speech Trump or his team saw...

Samsung vs. Apple

Supremes give Samsung a unanimous decision. Probably good for innovation, since it limits the scope of patent infringement cases.

Do the Math

A study from the Cleveland Fed finds that income is correlated with progress in high school math. Other studies have shown that the amount of math completed in high school is highly correlated with future educational success.

The causality of the linkage is not known, but it's pretty obvious that a whole raft of higher paying occupations require a significant amount of math. The Fed study apparently looked only at Algebra II, which is pretty low on the math hierarchy, though the other one looked at math up through calculus. Data on higher math doesn't seem to exist, so I guess I will never know whether my evident failure to master algebraic geometry hurt my income.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Hot Times/The Unmelting

Much of the Arctic Ocean continues to bask in unseasonably toasty weather, 15-20 C above normal. Of course it's still freezing, but it's not too surprising the the Arctic ice is way behind in refreezing - about 1 million km^2 below the previous record low for this date. Of course there's lots of Winter to go, but it's at least plausible that late refreeze will leave us on thin ice next Spring and Summer.

The main culprit this year is said to be excessive water vapor in the Arctic atmosphere. Meanwhile, Arctic Siberia is damn cold.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

If you are string theory, or a string theorist, the answer is still The Breakthrough Institute. It dished out another $9 megabucks to string theorists Andrew Strominger, Cumrun Vafa, and Joe Polchinski this year. The guys who actually discovered something, gravitational waves, split another $3 million a total of 1015 ways. They join seven other string theory winners (if I counted right) for a total of ten winners for a theory that has yet to have a single confirmatory discovery.

With sparticles and other possible String Theory predictions looking more and more likely to be out of reach of the LHC and other current experiments, doubters in the physics community have been more aggressive at challenging the party line. The theory Witten (a previous BI winner) called a fragment of 21st Century physics that fell into the 20th Century might have to put off its coming out for another Century or more.

On the other hand, credible alternatives are in equally short supply.

UPDATE: Peter Woit has a rundown and some commentary.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Slightly Dyspeptic Movie Reviews

Because I'm still bitter, OK?

Fantastic Beasts - I'm like a huge Harry Potter fan, OK, but I'm very sorry to report that Rowling's latest is not very good. It's not very bad, but it's not up to standard. The problems: Harry Potter had arresting heroes and villains, played, in most cases, by brilliant character actors. FB lacks both of the above. Heroes and villains both look blah. There is a lot of emphasis on special effects, all of it trite and boring compared to HP. The title beasts are also mostly boring. This was Jo's first screenwriting effort, so maybe I shouldn't despair yet, but I fear her font of magic maybe drying up.

Dr. Strange - A fairly interesting beginning, with a potentially interesting character, which quickly degenerates into the dullest type of Buddhism as magic crap. Special effects boring. With great power comes great tedium.

Feeling the Bern

Arun quotes from a Newsweek story on the Republican opposition research book on Bernie Sanders. It's not good. Really not good. From Kurt Eichenwald's Newsweek story:

On Friday, I almost assaulted a fan of my work. I was in the Philadelphia International Airport, and a man who recognized me from one of my appearances on a television news show approached. He thanked me for the investigative reporting I had done about Donald Trump before the election, expressed his outrage that the Republican nominee had won and then told me quite gruffly, “Get back to work.” Something about his arrogance struck me, so I asked, “Who did you vote for?”

He replied, “Well, Stein, but—” I interrupted him and said, “You’re lucky it’s illegal for me to punch you in the face.” Then, after telling him to have sex with himself—but with a much cruder term—I turned and walked away.

...

I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs.

Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”

Put that in your pipes, Bernheads.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Treading on Chinese Toes

That's our Donnie.

Josh Marshall looks at the implications:

This Trump call to the President of Taiwan is as dangerous as it sounds. What makes it even crazier is that we don't really know if this is a considered and deliberate provocation, an accident because Trump doesn't even know the diplomatic protocol on this or just something some China hawk aide talked him into while he was eating a Taco salad.

I suspect there's an element of each in play.

There's already been chatter about John Bolton, a hardcore China hawk, visiting with Trump today. Was that connected with this? Apparently Reince Priebus is also very close to Taipei, something the mainland press had already commented on with some consternation. Frankly, I had no idea that Priebus had anything but generic foreign policy views about anything.

But here's the other thing in the mix. Before this happened there was already news in the Taiwanese press that Trump and his children are in talks to build a series of luxury resorts and hotels in Taiwan. (The link is to an English language discussion in Shanghaiist since the originals are in Chinese.) The One China Policy is a complex and not entirely logical way that all sides tacitly agree to keep kicking the status of Taiwan can down the road and into the future forever.

It would be quite an accomplishment if Trump starts a war before he even takes office.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Yes, I Admit It

I am quite aware that there are people a lot smarter than I. This was true even before I got old and my memory started getting funky. But Lee once asked me something like: "Do you think you are smarter than Trump voters?"

I admit that I do. And not just by a little.

I submit this video in evidence, courtesy of Kevin Drum, YouTube, and CNN.



By the way, I don't just think I'm smarter than the dumb as a brick featured speaker.  I also think that I'm smarter than Nobel Prize winners, if any, who happened to vote for Trump.  I may not be as smart as some of the billionaires who voted for Trump, because they may think that he will allow them to steal some more of the country - after all, Trump is pretty dumb too.