During a recent interview with The Nation editors Katrina vanden Heuvel and her husband Stephan Cohen, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev credited President Reagan for helping end the Cold War, but he argued that instituting democratic reforms in his country was the true catalyst. “Without perestroika, the cold war simply would not have ended,” he said. Gorbachev later described a private conversation he had with then Vice President Bush about Reagan:
By the way, in 1987, after my first visit to the United States, Vice President Bush accompanied me to the airport, and told me: “Reagan is a conservative. An extreme conservative. All the blockheads and dummies are for him, and when he says that something is necessary, they trust him. But if some Democrat had proposed what Reagan did, with you, they might not have trusted him.”
When asked what lessons he learned “that President Obama should heed in making his decisions about Afghanistan,” Gorbachev – who ended the Soviet Union’s 10 year war there in 1989 — replied, “One was that problems there could not be solved with the use of force. Such attempts inside someone else’s country end badly.”
By the time he left office, George W. Bush was hideously unpopular among the American people. Indeed, people hated him so much that the public continues to have extremely low confidence in the political party to which he belonged. Indeed, UFO conspiracy theories are more popular than the Republican Party. But as unpopular as Bush was at home, he was much more unpopular abroad.
Barack Obama’s election has drastically improved the world’s view of America to the extent that the Nobel Committee even saw fit to grant him a premature-seeming Nobel Peace Prize. Under the circumstances, any reasonable representative of American policy would try to emphasize as much as possible that he or she shared the world’s extremely low opinion of Obama’s predecessor and emphasize that whatever you may say about Obama, he’s not George W. Bush. For example Hillary Clinton is a smart woman:
Clinton told the students “there is a huge difference” between the Obama administration’s approach and that of former President George W. Bush. “I spent my entire eight years in the Senate opposing him,” she said to a burst of applause from the audience of several hundred students. “So to me, it’s like daylight and dark.”
John Hannah, despised and discredited former henchman to Dick Cheney, himself the the most despised and discredit of the many despised and discredited henchmen of the despised and discredited Bush administration, whines in response:
Does anyone advising President Obama and the secretary of state really believe that this kind of partisanship and trash-talking abroad about another American president is really going to buy us much long-term goodwill among either our friends or our adversaries? Do they imagine that this sort of thing really helps to advance U.S. national interests?
Obviously, though, Hannah can’t really be so dumb as to not realize that there’s enormous, enormous, enormous good will to be gained through bashing the despised and discredited Bush administration. I take it that he savvily realizes that the world’s greatest fear about Obama is that he might not really be all that different from Bush. Hannah’s attacks, however, emphasize the reality of the change and thus improve America’s imagine in the world. So I say—nice work John Hannah!
The likelihood that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R-CA) recent vulgar hidden message was inadvertent is about one in a trillion, according to a Wonk Room analysis. In a recent message announcing a veto of a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano — who had earlier told the governor to “kiss my gay ass” — the first letters in each line of the two paragraphs spelled out “Fuck You,” with that capitalization. The governor’s press secretary claimed it was just a “weird coincidence“:
Schwarzenegger’s press secretary, Aaron McLear, insisted Tuesday it was simply a “weird coincidence.” He sent us veto messages the governor sent out in the past with linguistic lineups such as “soap” and “poet,” which he said were also unintended.
Ignoring the likelihood of the paragraphs breaking into the correct 4-3 lines necessary for “Fuck You” and the likelihood of the capitalization being inadvertently correct, the probability of that particular phrase is approximately one in a trillion.
This is considerably smaller than the likelihood of the vulgarity appearing if the distribution of first letters were even, which is 1 in 10 billion (26^-7 = 1.25e-10).
If word distribution were based on the frequency of first letters in a common word dictionary [3esl.txt], then the likelihood of randomly spelling out the particular phrase would be one in a trillion (1.19e-12).
However, that ignores the distribution of word frequency in speech — words beginning with “t” (e.g. “the”, “that”) appear much more often than any other. Calculating first-letter frequencies from a 30,000-word concordance of recent speeches by Schwarzenegger (removing instances of “Thank you”), we still find the likelihood of the phrase in question randomly appearing to be one in a trillion (8.8e-13), in line with our less well-designed estimate.
Now, the likelihood that some phrase would be spelled out? Ignoring letter distribution, there’s about a 0.3% chance any four letter string is a common English word, and a 3% chance any three letter string is a common English word. The specific likelihood of the words “soap” and “poet” appearing, for example, given the Schwarzenegger speeches, is one in 100,000 — much greater than the one in 10 million shot of “fuck” appearing.
As letter distribution would make the appearance of common words more likely (e.g. “teas”), the probability of some two-word combination appearing is on the order of two percent. The likelihood of it making any sense, of course, is smaller. A more accurate estimation is left to the reader.
How likely is one in a trillion? To give a sense of scale, one trillion is about 10 to 20 times the number of human beings who have ever lived on the planet. For a person to speak a trillion words, you’d have to live for 400,000 years. About 20 trillion words are spoken every day on the planet. You would need to search through about the number of books in seven Libraries of Congress to find a book that randomly had Schwarzenegger’s phrase going down one of its pages.
Glenn Beck’s bizarre Connect Four antics Thursday afternoon were amusing, but the best part of that segment was actually Beck’s thoughts on the relationship between art and politics:
Landsman gave an interesting description of his job interview with Valerie Jarrett saying he’d “use art to change the world.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want art to change the world. I’d like people to change the world. Together, and out in the open. Not through some painting that makes me feel like that’s a great idea. Fox viewers are always called zombies and idiots. But who are the zombies, somebody who’s are getting real political discussion every day, or somebody making their decision through a painting or a broadway show?
At first glance, this seems like part of Glenn Beck’s continuing effort to get people to ensure the continuing relevance of Richard Hofstadter, by melding the paranoid style with anti-intellectualism. But another way of looking at it is that Beck is recapitulating an argument Plato makes in The Republic about the inferiority of art to philosophy. The complaint, essentially, is that art is a kind of cheating that bypasses the faculty of reason and can mislead the people. This leads him to the conclusion that poetry ought to be banned in a well-governed society.
My publisher and I still haven’t come up with a title that works. The problem is that there are a great many books on climate and/or clean energy solutions coming out right now many with similar sounding titles.
I do think this collection of blog posts accomplishes what I try to do on my blog — save readers time, cut through the crap and focus on what’s important in climate science, solution, and politics (with a hefty dose of old-media critiques). The trick is it making that all clear in a few, catchy words.
I prefer figures of speech — The Hype About Hydrogen is my best-selling book. And don’t worry too much about the subtitle — it will explain what the book covers, and I have a pretty good idea for that, but don’t want to thwart any of your creativity by putting out any ideas right now.
If we end up choosing your suggestion (or something very similar), you’ll get free copy of the book (woo-hoo) and you can write a guest blog post! For similar sounding suggestions, the earliest entry wins. You can build on someone else’s idea — in fact, that’s usually how the best title is ultimately found.
Enter as many suggestions as you want. Do use Google to check whether the title is sufficiently original.
I’ve always been a bit of an energy efficiency nut.
I’ve made it my mission to cut the utility bills at every home we’ve owned. Long before I learned about the risks of climate change, I was fanatical about energy efficiency because I’m cheap.
Whenever my wife and I move into a new home, I check the attic for adequate insulation. I look for leaks around doors and windows and install a programmable thermostat if needed. In our latest home, I’ve also insulated our water pipes with inexpensive foam from our local hardware store and painted mastic sealant on the seams of the air ducts. When our hot water heater needed replacement, we installed a tank-less water heater which decreased our summer-time gas use by 50%. In the summer, we found that setting the thermostat at 77 – 78 degrees and a gentle breeze from a fan was all that is required to be comfortable.
So far, we are on track to cut our utility bills by about half compared to the previous owner, but we are doing more. Our home has two large skylights that funnel too much heat out in the winter and let too much heat in the summer. We intend to replace these older windows with modern widows with five times the efficiency.
Taking these steps is called “weatherization.” I would rather call it “saving money by saving energy.” Over the next several years, we want to help millions of American families seize the same opportunity to cut their utility bills by making their homes and appliances more energy efficient while increasing comfort.
We are making a major down payment on this effort through the President’s economic recovery plan.
Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) held a conference call with bloggers to discuss net neutrality. He and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced legislation — which currently has seven co-sponsors — to “establish overarching national broadband policy and ensures an open and consumer oriented Internet.” Markey stressed the importance of fighting “misinformation,” invoking death panels and the other red herrings the right wing slung into this summer’s health care debate:
As you all know, a lot is being written and said about what open Internet requirements would mean for broadband investment innovation and consumers. [...]
It’s almost as though some people want to have their own equivalent of “death panels” that we had in the health care debate back in August. That was a red herring that took us off the main point of providing health care to everyone, for a month or six weeks. Now we’ve got that straightened out, but we have to battle hard to make sure the misinformation is responded and responded to in a very brief period of time.
Fox News host Glenn Beck has been fear-mongering on net neutrality for weeks, saying that the Obama administration is trying to shut down freedom of speech. “You have a freedom of speech or the government,” said Beck last week. “You can’t really have both.” He’s been getting his talking points from Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity, who also fueled Beck’s campaign against former Obama adviser Van Jones. Some telecom companies — which, along with the cable industry, is driving opposition to an open Internet — have begun astroturfing efforts as well.
The telecom and cable industries are the ones interested in controlling access to information on the Internet. What the FCC’s regulations on net neutrality would do are ensure that the Internet remains an open, non-discriminatory marketplace of ideas, rather than a pay-for-play system where broadband providers could make certain companies’ sites run faster if they’re willing to dole out large sums of money.
Net neutrality is essential to free speech, which both the Christian Coalition and the Gun Owners of America have acknowledged. From a 2008 testimony by Michele Combs, the Christian Coalition’s vice president of communications:
Consequently, the reason the Christian Coalition supports Net Neutrality is simple. We believe that organizations such as the Christian Coalition should be able to continue to use the Internet to communicate with our members and with a worldwide audience without a phone or cable company snooping in on our communications and deciding whether to allow a particular communication to proceed, slow it down, or offer to speed it up if the author pays extra to be on the “fast lane.”
Free Press has put together a report here debunking some of the myths on net neutrality, and our Progress Report today has more information.
Spencer Ackerman observes the influence the lessons of Iraq are having on American operational thinking:
Second, yes, again: assuming what “worked” in Iraq will “work” in Afghanistan is to delude yourself, and to do so deliberately. Everyone says that he or she is not simply applying role lessons from one war to a different one, but I see more evidence, on balance, that that’s exactly what’s happening. How many times did I hear at the Marine Corps University’s COIN conference last month about what the lessons of Iraq were and how experience showed this-or-that. And that’s natural! You want to apply the benefit of experience — that’s what smart people do. But it’s also fraught with peril, and we all need to be rigorous here about checking our assumptions.
I think appeals to “the lessons of history” are, in general, dangerous. Efforts to make predictions based on observations of human history tend to fail. But it’s especially difficult when you’re basically talking about learning lessons based on a single case.
Early this evening, the White House voluntarily released nearly 500 visitor records of “individuals visiting the executive mansion between Inauguration Day and the end of July.” The easily-searchable list includes some famous names like Michael Jordan, Michael Moore, William Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright. Of course, the mere suggestion of Ayers and Wright has sent the right wing into a tizzy.
The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb:
The Weekly Standard’s Mary Katharine Ham:
The Washington Times’ Amanda Carpenter:
Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey:
But as the original post by White House ethics counselor Norm Eisen makes clear, the “William Ayers” and “Jeremiah Wright” on the list are actually different individuals who merely share the same name:
Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few “false positives” – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else. In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly (“R. Kelly”), and Malik Shabazz). The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House. Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names.
Mainstream news outlets have reportedthis fact accurately. But for the right wing, the story was simply too good to be fact-checked.