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    • Meritocracy, What Meritocracy
      From Saez, Chetty, et al So, unless you think that genetic potential is that unequally distributed (and can explain eras where this chart did not apply, as in the post-WWII decades), you can pretty much forget “meritocracy.” Meritocracy is just a way of saying “we test for the things the middle and upper class has […]
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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

History shows that . . .

[CO2] Levels similar to those now commonly regarded as adequate to tackle climate change were associated with sea levels 25-40m (80-130 ft) higher than today.

That’s meters. That’s enough to drown a 10-story building. That’s enough to make several billion people move to higher ground or die. Or both. It won’t be pleasant for the people they move in on either.

And that is not conjecture or a probability statement or an extrapolation.

The new research was able to look back to the Miocene period, which began a little over 20 million years ago.

At the start of the period, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere stood at about 400 parts per million (ppm) before beginning to decline about 14 million years ago – a trend that eventually led to formation of the Antarctic icecap and perennial sea ice cover in the Arctic.

The high concentrations were probably sustained by prolonged volcanic activity in what is now the Columbia River basin of North America, where rock formations called flood basalts relate a history of molten rock flowing routinely onto the planet’s surface.

In the intervening millennia, CO2 concentrations have been much lower; in the last few million years they cycled between 180ppm and 280ppm in rhythm with the sequence of ice ages and warmer interglacial periods.

Now, humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are pushing towards the 400ppm range [c. 380ppm now], which will very likely be reached within a decade.

“What we have shown is that in the last period when CO2 levels were sustained at levels close to where they are today, there was no icecap on Antarctica and sea levels were 25-40m higher,” said research leader Aradhna Tripati from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

“At CO2 levels that are sustained at or near modern day values, you don’t need to have a major change in CO2 levels to get major changes in ice sheets,” she told BBC News.

The elevated CO2 and sea levels were associated with temperatures about 3-6C (5-11F) higher than today.

So, there you have it. The last time greenhouse gases were this high, there wasn’t a 2% chance of melting ice sheets. There was a 100% chance.

Does that mean it will happen again? We’ll probably see. Because the answer to, “Do you want to risk the whole planet to find out?” appears to be “Yes.”

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Your Saturday Breakfast Read: Nobel Prize Edition

2009 Nobel Peace Prize: Opinions Galore

Yves Smith has a nice round up
Obama Nobel Peace Prize Smackdown Wrap

I was certain I was either reading an Onion headline or had woken up in an alternative reality when I learned that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Huh? Even Obama had the good sense to say he didn’t deserve it

Tobin Harshaw at The Opinionator peruses the Intertubz for us
Does the Nobel Hate America?

As we all know, Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Swell sentiments, but it seems unlikely that anyone will ever apply them to Brad Woodhouse, the communications director of the Democratic National Committee

“Newsweak” checks some of the hot spots around the world
How Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Surprise Is Being Received in the World’s Hot Spots

Barack Obama’s big surprise win this morning produced more than a few “huhs?!?” heard ’round the world. Our personal favorite came from Lech Walesa, the 1983 Peace Prize winner and Poland’s president from 1990 to 1995, who told reporters in Warsaw: “Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast—he hasn’t had the time to do anything yet.” Of course, the head-scratching most relevant to this particular prize is happening in places like Jerusalem, Peshawar, and Harare.

I’m as anti Bush as anyone you’ll meet on the planet, but even for me this is getting ridiculous.
Why Obama? Deconstructing the Nobel Peace Prize nomination

This was the last in a series of three presidential choices whose logic now reveals itself to be clear: from former President Jimmy Carter in 2002, to would-be President Al Gore in 2007 (joint with the IPCC), and now recently-elected President Barack Obama in 2009, a remarkable run of US politicians as Nobel Peace Laureates comes to an end, neatly bracketing – and standing as pointed rejoinder to – the Bush years.

Anyone saying the Peace Prize Committee does not have a political agenda needs to consider the timing and nature of these choices more carefully.

Will the Nobel Prize help Obama?
A Nobel Can’t Stop Obama’s Waning Influence

The Nobel shows Obama is still popular abroad. But it doesn’t help much if the U.S. is seen as a banana republic.

The Times of London still doesn’t mince words.
Prize fools

The Nobel committee’s award to President Obama demeans the peace prize, appears politically partisan and should embarrass the White House

That is good to know: There have been other questionable recipients.
Obama Not First Surprising Nobel Peace Prize Winner: Seven Controversial Recipients


Heath-Care Mess

There’s a new new thing in town: The “opt-out public option”.
Ezra Klein thinks it’s a great idea because it forces Conservatives to make a decision in their States.
A Public Option Compromise That Might Actually Work?

It’s an opportunity to pit liberal and conservative policies against each other, rather than just pitting liberal and conservative congressmen against each other.

Alex Koppelman says this could be “it”.
Finally, a public option compromise everyone likes?

So far, the compromises that have been suggested in an effort to get some form of a public option through the Senate have ended up satisfying no one. There’s one new one out there, though, that’s getting some traction. Though it’s still too early to be sure, there may now be a solution that both liberal and conservative Senate Democrats can agree on.

Ed Kilgore likes the whole idea.
Are the States Ready To Undertake Health Care Reform?

As the U.S. Senate prepares for floor action on health care reform, there’s a sudden profusion of schemes that seek a compromise on the key “public option” question by giving states a lot of leeway. Tom Carper is floating a state “opt-in” approach. Others are talking about a state “opt-out” system. The Finance Committee has already adopted Maria Cantwell’s proposal to let states use federal subsidy funds to cover a majority of the uninsured as they see fit. And the original Baucus markup vehicle included Ron Wyden’s proposal to let states do all sorts of “experimentation” with federal funds.

The political value of these approaches is pretty obvious: by giving states flexibility on the key questions surrounding the public option debate, health reform proponents hope to give shaky Democrats and maybe a Republican or two an avenue to get out of the way of health reform while accomodating home-state pressure from health insurers and/or providers.

Garrison Keillor says he’s revisit his opinion and apologizes. Sort of.
Quality Health Care for All — Even the Republicans

OK, it was wrong of me to say last week that we should deny health care to Republicans except for aspirin and hand sanitizer, and thank you to the many readers who kindly took me to task. It was so wrong. And I withdraw the idea that death panels should circulate through red states searching for the obese and slow afoot, the wheezy and limpy, spray-painting orange stripes on their ankles, marking them for future harvest. That was very, very bad.

Republicans have the same right to quality health care as anyone else, and you can quote me on that. Even people who are crazed stark raving berserk by the thought of a president with three vowels in his last name deserve to be treated with kindness and dignity, and shot with tranquilizer darts by game wardens and wrapped in quilts and taken to refuge.


Politics

Come on guys, show some decorum.
Rep. Skelton To Rep. Akin: “Stick It Up Your Ass”

Show me some civility, Republicans cried Friday after a Missouri congressman speaking on the House floor was caught on microphone apparently cussing out a fellow Missourian.

Wow! This is getting serious.
Republican Shoots Target with Fla. Dem’s Initials

A South Florida Republican said it was a mistake to shoot at a target with the initials of the Democratic congresswoman he is trying to unseat.


Around The Nation

H1N1 is ravaging the country. Take it seriously.
CDC: 19 Pediatric Deaths Were Reported This Week

Flu is widespread in 37 states, with 76 pediatric deaths since the advent of the H1N1 virus in April. 19 pediatric deaths were reported just this week — the deaths occurred between July 19 and October 3rd. A pediatric death is defined by the CDC as children under the age of 18. Most flu being seen throughout the country is of the H1N1 variety. The number of pediatric deaths is particularly striking. In the past three years, the total number of pediatric deaths during the entire flu season ranged from 46 to 88.

As Flu Vaccine Arrives for the Season, Some Questions and Answer

The first doses of vaccine for the H1N1 2009 influenza, commonly called swine flu, began arriving at hospitals and doctors’ offices this week. But fear and confusion about the vaccine are spreading almost as quickly as the virus itself.

Way to go guys. Who wants to work FOR Rush Limbaugh?
Black NFL players crush prospect of playing for a Rush Limbaugh-owned St. Louis Rams

Mathias Kiwanuka loves his former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but the Giants’ defensive end says he will never play for Spagnuolo’s Rams if Rush Limbaugh purchases the team.

Kiwanuka and the Jets’ Bart Scott made it clear Thursday that they would never play for the Rams or any team owned by the controversial conservative radio host.

To which Rush Limbaugh replied: “Take that, black players who don’t want to play for a team owned by me… I got a better gig”.
Limbaugh to judge 2010 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood

Rush Limbaugh will be a judge for the 2010 Miss America Pageant set for Jan. 30 at the Planet Hollywood Theatre for the Performing Arts. The Miss America Organization was expected to make an announcement to that effect this morning, though Fox News Network host Greta Van Susteren has reported on her blog that the organization has already sent a release quoting Miss America President and Chief Executive Art McMaster saying: “We are thrilled to have Rush join us for our pageant this year. He will bring a thrilling new dimension to the competition, and we know that the 2010 Miss America Pageant will be filled with new twists and exciting opportunities with him as one of our national judges.”

Yaowza!
Modesto gang teen gets 132 years to life for murder when he was 14

A defendant who was 14 years old when he went on a shooting spree through south Modesto and killed a young father will likely die in prison after a judge sentenced him to 132 years to life in prison this morning.

Angel Cabanillas, now 18, will be the only California inmate serving a life sentence for a crime committed at the age of 14 or younger, his defense attorney said in Stanislaus County Superior Court. Attorney Martin Baker of Modesto said a life sentence for a child’s crime is “cruel and unusual punishment.”


Economy Watch

The Swedes and Norwegians fully intend to keep the comedy going. If this is really their plan, I can’t wait for the reactions, especially if you consider how much Gene Fama has embarrassed himself lately.
Efficient Market Theory Guru Eugene Fama Tipped For Nobel

American economist Eugene Fama, considered the father of the efficient market theory, is the favorite to win this year’s Nobel economics prize, due to be announced on Monday.

Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, Harry Markowitz and Merton Miller, Christopher Swann has had enough of these blunders:
Dynamite the Nobel prize in economics

[T]hose awarding the medal for economics have a long history of endorsing ideas that are useless, incorrect and even dangerous.

With the latest winner of the $1.4 million windfall due to be named on Monday, the case is stronger than ever for scrapping the prize altogether.

Adieu Hummer. I will NOT miss you.
Hummer Sold to Chinese Firm

General Motors Co. said it signed a definitive agreement to sell its Hummer sport utility brand to a Chinese heavy-equipment maker, potentially achieving an important goal in the U.S. auto company’s post-bankruptcy makeover.

People around the world have stop falling for our shtick.
US mantra of strong dollar loses its value

For 14 years US Treasury secretaries have taken up the mantra as though it were an essential part of the office. So, sure enough, Tim Geithner, like his recent predecessors, believes “in a strong dollar”.

But if one thing has been devalued over that time, it is not so much the currency itself but the impact of the phrase.

As always, people at the bottom are those who end up paying the price.
The ‘Democratization of Credit’ Is Over — Now It’s Payback Time

The recession has forced a financial reckoning for Americans across the income spectrum. The pressure is especially acute for the low-income Americans who relied on borrowing for daily expenses or to gain the trappings of middle-class life. Shifting credit practices over several decades had enabled them to live beyond their means by borrowing nearly as readily as the more affluent.

But the financial crisis and recession have reversed what some economists dubbed the “democratization of credit,” forcing a tough adjustment on both low-income families and the businesses that serve them.


Around The World

Thank Goodness some people have a long memory.
Tony Blair branded a ‘war criminal’ after Iraq memorial service

Six-and-a-half years after he sent British forces into battle in Iraq, Tony Blair today came face to face with the uncomfortable consequences of his decision when the father of one of the 178 military personnel who died in the conflict refused to shake his hand, denouncing him as a “war criminal”.

Think of all the great Italians you know from the history books: Berlusconi thinks he fits comfortably in.
Silvio Berlusconi: I am inferior to no one in history

As Silvio Berlusconi yesterday tried to shore up his position by declaring himself irreplaceable as Italy’s head of government, a court in Milan was told it had been “amply demonstrated” that he was guilty of bribery.

“I am, and not only in my own opinion, the best prime minister who could be found today,” he told a press conference. “I believe there is no one in history to whom I should feel inferior. Quite the opposite.”

Who needs vaccine when a nice suit could do the treak.
Japanese suit that fights flu

A Japanese company, Haruyama Trading Co., has developed a suit that it claims protects the wearer from the deadly H1N1 strain of influenza.

Tragedy in Haitian skies
Eleven die as UN surveillance plane crashes

Crews battling rough, remote terrain hope to remove the bodies of 11 military personnel today, a day after their UN surveillance plane slammed into a mountain in Haiti, killing everyone on board.

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Obama wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Who me?  Yes, you.  Couldnt be  Um, yeah, we know.

"Who me?" Yes, you. "Couldn't be" Yeah, we know.

Today, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics to President Barack Obama.  Citing his intention to pull the country and the world out of the deepest recession since The Great Depression, the Nobel committee said that it was inspired by the President’s ability to promote a sense of financial well-being in the world’s bankers.

“President Obama has transformed Reagan’s vision of trickle down economics into something that rains down on all of us”, The Committee chair announced.  “Besides, we had one prize left and thought, what the heck!   We have a crush on Obama.  B-to-the-A-to-the-R-A-C-K O-B-A-M-A!”

When reminded of Elizabeth Warren’s warning that the real economy has been hollowed out by decades of deregulation of the financial industry that has left the country with a very fragile economy and that Obama has essentially continued and extended former President George Bush’s economic policies, the committee said that Elizabeth Warren was not a ‘serious person’ but a ‘cotton headed ninny muggins’ who is ‘childishly impatient’.  “Elizabeth Warren is much too concerned with the immediate impact of the financial bailout on the average consumer.  We advise her to wait and see what happens.  We are awarding this prize pre-emptively to demonstrate that Obama will do what he should have done anyway without any expectation of an award.  Call it, ‘The Audacity of Hope’.  D’OH!  Lars, take a note.  Make sure Obama gets the prize next year for Literature.”

The Nobel Committee said that it would spend the rest of the year figuring out ways President Obama could camp on the Prizes in Medicine, Chemistry and Physics but thought that they could swing it if they knocked a couple of hardworking women out of the running.

Meanwhile, the DNC released a statement condemning those who thought the Prize premature and lowering the threshhold of accountability to farcical levels as expressing “obviously racist tendencies”.  Users at the blog, The Confluence, a liberal site of former Democrats now dedicated to holding Obama accountable to the people his campaign steamrolled on his way to the presidency, rolled their eyes and said this Prize will not alter their outlook on Obama’s presidency, which they deemed a failure before it even started.  “We waited eight long years to get rid of Bush only to be disenfranchised during the primaries and stuck with this weakling for four years”, Confluence proprietor RD said, “Prize or no prize, we expect him to do the right thing by America’s voters.  We’re not going to let no starry-eyed, lutefisk eaters try to tell us what to think.”

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