Letting the Little Guy Invest

One of the persistent criticisms of the Geithner plan is that it's a sweetheart deal for investors.  The government puts up most of the money, downside risk is limited thanks to the non-recourse funding, and there are probably lots of ways the auctions can be gamed.  Matt Yglesias points to a comment at The Baseline Scenario that suggests a way to deal with this:

If Geithner’s taxpayer subsidized toxic public/private plan goes forward, I think it would be fair if the federal government allow non-institutional investors to participate via a no-fee investment vehicle.  I think if Americans had the option of investing in this program (without having to pay the egregious fees to the investment advisors/PE shops), it would be much easier to swallow since they would at least get the same deal the sharks are getting.

Like James Kwak, I think this is a brilliant idea, and one that Treasury should not merely allow, but actively encourage.  At least one of the fund managers chosen to participate in the program should be one that agrees to allow investment by retail customers.  In the end, Geithner's plan may or may not turn out to be a sweetheart deal, but surely us little guys should have the same chance to find out as the well-heeled crowd.

Listen Up, Grown-Ups

Okay, there's been a ton of venting on my baby boom post. I still feel like people are missing the point I was trying to make. So let me try again.

Eoin O'Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor's bright green blog suggests that assigning responsibility for emissions across generations is inherently faulty since we'd have to trace it all that ways backwards to our original progenitor, "a clump of self-replicating molecules some four billion years ago."

Huh? We can't go backwards in time (well, not until the Large Hadron Collider goes online, anyway). So all we actually can do at this point in time to affect any change is to think of the future as we take actions and make choices today. So, yes, we must (not assign) but assume responsibility for emissions across generations.

Second, O'Carroll questions whether it's "a wise strategy to deploy environmental stewardship to urge people to voluntarily stop having kids?" He continues:

Even if such a strategy worked (a big if), the only people to heed this advice be those who care about the environment, while those who don’t care about the environment would continue breeding as usual. Given that children generally tend to share the social beliefs of their parents, this starts to looks like a recipe for eliminating environmentalism from the gene pool.

Okay, so those of us who know having more kids will screw up the world faster than it already is getting screwed up should go ahead and have those kids anyway because the screwed-up anti-greenies are going to take over the world? Sounds like a South Park episode to me. This is a classic Tragedy of the Commons approach akin to burying our heads in the diapers. The truth is we all own equal shares in the future of our planet and each one of us needs to protect the shares in any way we can.

Third, O'Carroll's cites Alex Steffen's "alternative" vision of how we can protect the climate by curbing population growth: that is, by empowering women.

That means increasing their access to reproductive health choices, education, jobs, loans, and protection against violence.  Everywhere this has happened, the birthrate has declined.

This is hardly a new approach to population control and is clearly the only one that has worked so far. So we're in agreement here. But I would add that part of the education that empowers women is providing access to scientific studies buried in obscure journals. Even telling them things they may not want to hear. In my case, I wanted to let women and men know that the cost of their next child is 10,000 to 13,000 extra metric tons of CO2. Is that not educational?

Deploying environmental stewardship is educational.

As for the photo I posted—and a lot of the readers took umbrage at it—apparently I violated a secret social contract that requires we publish only pictures of cute happy babies.

What's wrong with angry babies?

Which leads me to my final point. I do not hate babies, even when they're little monsters.

I'm just trying to talk about their future.

Acorn

I thought that "Going Galt" was pretty much as stupid as conservatives could possibly get, but I was wrong. This has it beat.  Jeebus.

Suckitude

Have I mentioned lately that computers suck? Well, they do.

And what's the deal with everyone wanting super-widescreen monitors these days? It's practically impossible to get a native 1280x1024 monitor when your old one breaks. Like mine just did. Blecch.

Whole Foods vs. Unions

In what's being euphemistically dubbed the 'third way', the CEOs of Whole Foods, Costco, and Starbucks have joined together to lay out a 'compromise' to the management/labor stand-off over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). At issue is whether employees interested in forming a union would be allowed to choose their union formation process. Current law lets companies insist upon a secret-ballot election, even when employees would prefer a majority sign-up method.

I'm not going to restate the merits of labor's position (you can read about it here and here) but surely we can agree that employees should be able to choose how they decide to form a union, right? Well, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey thinks it's un-American.

FDA Ordered to Reconsider Plan B Age Limits

Today, a federal court ordered the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription to women age 17 and older (currently, age is set at 18 or older). Not only that, the court also mandated that the FDA reconsider making Plan B available over-the-counter to women of any age.

In the decision, the court wrote that the FDA "acted...in response to political pressure" and that the FDA's evidence for limiting Plan B access to those under 18 "lacks all credibility." You can read the rest of the scathing, 52-page decision here.

While reproductive rights activists and FDA reformists are rejoicing, there's also the predictable condemnation by conservative organizations like the Family Research Council. The FRC says it worries about girls' well-being, and claims the court's decision is politically motivated. The decision accepts "all of the claims of a political ideology promoting sexual license for teens." Personally, I don't really see how Plan B promotes sexual license. If anything, I would think it promotes sexual responsibility. What's your take?

"Trash" Is the New N Word

Right wing hateration against the Obamas (and black people in general) continues.

Someone named Tammy Bruce, guest hosting for Laura Ingraham, waxes philosophical about "the trash in the White House". According to HuffPo's transcript, the psycho-pundit said:

"...You know what we've got? We've got trash in the White House. Trash is a thing that is colorblind, it can cross all eco-socionomic...categories. You can work on Wall Street, or you can work at the Wal-Mart. Trash, are people who use other people to get things, who patronize others, who consider you bitter and clingy..."

Really, you have to listen to believe. I have to hope she was high because it's pure insanity.

Loco as this is, HuffPo also links to a Townhall piece which tries to fake deep thinking proving that Michelle is...wait for it...a bitch. Think even THEY couldn't be this pathetically obvious in their need to keep the Negroes in their place?

"The burning question in my circle is: If the First Family gets a female dog, will she be the First Bitch or will she have to settle for second place?"

OK. I gotta ask: Where is this moron's circle, exactly? 

Is the Galactica Finale Bad News for Lost?

I'll admit I've never been as much of a Battlestar Galactica fanatic as some people, even though I'm enough of a sucker for apocalyptic sci-fi that I stood in an opening-night line to see The Core. But even that skepticism wasn't enough to prepare me for the pile of stinking silliness that was the show's final episode on Friday night. Turns out the mystery song was a Google Map to the really real Earth, and God was directing them there the whole time through magic angels, or maybe demons, but whatever, their work here is done so they're gonna go "poof" and let you guys go about mating with the natives and making more people who can eventually make more robots. And, scene. Questions that had seemed vital, propulsive forces to the show's dramatic arc—What's the deal with reincarnated Starbuck? Who are the secret Cylons and why are they there? How does this world intersect with present-day Earth?—were tossed aside with quick "God did it" explanations or comically deadpan titles: "150,000 years later." Did the show bite off more than it could chew, or just crumple in the face of overwhelming expectations? And what could it mean for everybody's other favorite sci-fi ensemble mystery?

Lotsa good feminist stuff on the wires today, like these four under-30 screenwriters kicking ass in Hollywood and watching each other's backs. Again, the Times

"Mr. Spielberg will call her and she'll be afraid to answer the phone," Ms. Scafaria said of Ms. Cody. "I'll be like, 'Answer the phone!' "
Ms. Cody said: "I'll think it's all over. I’m a pessimist."
Ms. Scafaria said, "He’ll be calling to praise her."
Ms. Cody won an Oscar for her screenplay for "Juno." Ms. Scafaria is the screenwriter for "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist." ...
With their pals Dana Fox, who wrote "What Happens in Vegas," and Liz Meriwether, a playwright-turned-screenwriter, they make up a Hollywood powerhouse writing posse who call themselves "The Fempire."
You can find them at work in their Laurel Canyon homes in their pajamas, or sitting next to one another at laptop-friendly restaurants. To see them gathered amid the dinosaur topiary around Ms. Fox's swimming pool with their dogs (they all have dogs) is to see four distinct styles of glamour that bear little resemblance to traditional images of behind-the-scenes talent. Whenever one of them has a movie opening, they all rent a white limousine and go from theater to theater to watch the first audiences react...
I especially love the way they fly around the country supporting each other at premieres and, most importantly, giving each other permission to just fracking enjoy their success. To own it, something too many of us have a hard time with:
"This was never truer than during the hoopla surrounding "Juno," Ms. Cody’s story of a pregnant teenager who decides to have her baby and give it up for adoption. The other women lent or bought outfits for Ms. Cody, but that was the least of it.
"They supported me through the wildest time in my career," Ms. Cody said. "They helped me be excited for things when I was kind of shellshocked. They were the ones who had to literally take me aside at the 'Juno' premiere and say: 'This is fun. You will never forget this. Please enjoy yourself.'"

From the mouths of babes.

Bringing Science to Journalism

Chris Mooney has written an excellent WaPo column calling on journalists to agree to follow a more empirical process, one which is "constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself." He makes his case by calling out George Will, who is all too happy to continue misleading his global-warming-denying audience.

Will also wrote that "according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is one of many respected scientific institutions that support the consensus [.pdf] that humans are driving global warming... Climate scientists, knowing that any single year may trend warmer or cooler for a variety of reasons—1998, for instance, featured an extremely strong El Niño—study globally averaged temperatures over time. To them, it's far more relevant that out of the 10 warmest years on record, at least seven [.pdf] have occurred in the 2000s—again, according to the WMO.

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists—following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It's also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be—now more than ever.

Well said. This echoes what Mooney wrote for Mother Jones's September/October 2008 issue. After working for over a year as a fact-checker for MoJo, I must say that I couldn't agree more.